I Am Providence
by Nick Mamatas
Cover Artist: Magdalena Pagowska
Review by Katie Carmien
Night Shade Books Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781597808354
Date: 09 August 2016 List Price $15.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Horror authors Colleen and Panossian aren't expecting too much from this year's Summer Tentacular, a Lovecraft convention held in RI. They figure they'll sell some books, go to some bad parties, and go home. But then Panossian is murdered, his face sliced off, and nobody but Colleen seems to care. Even the cops are apathetic. Worse, the list of suspects is endless--not only was Panossian abrasive, fond of starting flame wars, and possessed of not one but three stalkers, he was also in possession of a valuable rare book. There's only one solution: Colleen and her friends have to solve the murder. And Panossian? He has to keep it together. While dead.
Firstly, Mamatas is spot-on in his portrayal of fandom. From the Sad Puppy-esque old guard to the Big Name Fan (BNF) in-group to the people on the fringes who simultaneously consider themselves more reasonable than that, yet nevertheless want the BNF to notice them, he's got it all. In fact, if anything it's a little muted--understandable, since if all the politics of even a tiny con were on full blast, there'd be no room for a murder mystery.
Secondly, I consider the choice to split the narration between Colleen and Panossian. If he hadn't done it just right, this would be been terrible, because Panossian is very abrasive. He's self-absorbed, a huge jerk, the kind of guy who starts flame wars on Twitter for fun. But because Mamatas made him self-aware and funny, his point of view is just as engaging to read as Colleen's. Those two were what kept me reading when the plot slowed down.
Now to the less stellar. Mamata'ís prose is serviceable, sometimes a little clunky--it could benefit from a couple contractions here or there, but unless readers really want flowery and evocative, there's nothing wrong with it. The mystery also meanders a bit--I found it a little repetitive for Colleen to go back and forth between the hotel and the police station so many times, for example. However, it has a satisfyingly twisty and (no spoilers) ambiguous ending. For readers who want a murder mystery with an original setting, this is a good choice.