Some books are delicious. BAD THINGS HAPPEN is black caviar on 'wry' toast with an extra twist of lemon. Even the plot twists have twists. Mystery fans are in for a treat -- reading this book is like having a glass with a fizzy drink and knocking it down and realizing -gulp- that it was premium champagne!
The first sentence perfectly illustrates the author's deadpan style: "The shovel has to meet certain requirements." By page four, the reader knows for sure that the man calling himself David Loogan wants the shovel to dig a grave. By that time, it's too late to have any thoughts of doing anything else other than to keep reading; one is hooked, line and sinker. No point in fighting, just let yourself be reeled in by this sophisticated noirish mystery set in Ann Arbor, centering on a literary magazine that prints mystery stories. Part of the pleasure is the contrast between the lurid tales the magazine prints with the complicated puzzle that the author sets the reader.
There are layers upon layers of mystery. What is in David Loogan's past? Who is the dead man he helps his friend bury? Who killed the man?
David Loogan is a man of mystery who just wants to lead a quiet life. Tom Kristoll, editor of Gray Streets, discovers that David has a flair for editing. In addition to hiring him to improve the sometimes dreadful stories submitted to his publication, Tom befriends the reclusive stranger. But there are shattering secrets in the literary circle clustered around Tom. Success, disappointment and betrayal can all be motives for murder. And since the suspects are all mystery writers most of the deaths are staged to look like suicide!
This novel is exceptionally rich with characters: the mysterious and resourceful David Loogan, the convivial Tom and his seductive wife Laura, Elizabeth Waishkey the lovely and clever police detective tasked with solving the murders, her daughter Sarah, Michael Beccanti the cat burglar...Harry Dolan seems to invent startling people in the turn of a phrase who seem quite solid and real. Tongue-in-cheek homage is paid to the masters Chandler and Stout and just when you think you have reached the grand conclusion--another twist! The suspense is spun out exquisitely thin and dry before all is over. This is an outstanding debut novel by an exciting new talent that combines taut action with literary sophistication. Highly recommended!
First time novelist Harry Dolan has hit the jackpot with this witty page-turner of a detective novel set in the college town of Ann Arbor. The plot revolves around a mystery magazine, Grey Streets, published out of Ann Arbor, and the owner, his wife, an editor, secretary, and the various writers that write regularly for the magazine. When the owner of the magazine apparently jumps to his death out of his office window, the police quickly discover that he was in fact murdered, setting off a dizzying chain of events that will keep the reader up till late at night. Dolan creates a variety of intriguing characters, including an editor with a mysterious past, an appealing female police detective, a lesbian mystery writer, etc., who have complex interrelationships that will keep the reader guessing as to who is responsible for the string of murders in the novel.
Highly recommended--an entertaining thriller that is sure to keep the reader on the edge of his seat.
on July 25, 2009
David Loogan lives and hides in Ann Arbor in hope of moving past a violent history that he knows he will never forget. He begins to write a short story for Gray Streets literary crime-fiction journal. Though he never finishes the project, the magazine publisher Tom Kristoll likes what he has seen. He offers David a position as an editor, which he accepts. David, Tom, and his wife Laura become friends.
Tom obtains David's help in dumping a corpse though the former does not believe the latter's explanation. Soon afterward Tom falls to his death from his office window. AAPD Homicide Detective Elizabeth Waishkey suspects David killed Tom especially when evidence surfaces that he slept with Laura. As other people associated with Gray Streets die, single mom Elizabeth focuses even more intensely on David, who conducts his own inquiry to uncover the killer before he is on trial.
The fun in this terrific twisting serial killer investigative tale is the writers who are intelligent and witty until they become the star of someone else's plot. The story line is fast-paced and the amateur sleuth prime suspect and the obstinate cop chasing him makes for an intriguing duel. Mindful of the movies' Theater of Blood and Murder by Death, but less hammy, fans will enjoy Harry Dolan's fine thriller that as Vincent Price said (in Theatre of Blood) is "much ado about murder".
In Harry Dolan's "Bad Things Happen," David Loogan is trying to stay under the radar because of something that happened in the past. He rents a house in Ann Arbor and takes a job as an editor for "Gray Streets," a mystery magazine. We do not know much about Loogan, except that he is nervous, afraid of the dark, and has a habit of looking over his shoulder. One day, a colleague asks him to commit a shocking crime and, for some reason, he complies. The plot thickens when the murdered bodies of people connected with "Gray Streets" start to pile up, and Loogan, among others, is a suspect. Yet, he goes ahead and makes another questionable decision--to solve the crimes himself, rather than rely on the police to identify the guilty party.
"Bad Things Happen" is at its best when Dolan goes for laughs. For instance, Tom Kristoll, the publisher of "Gray Streets," wryly states, "No one sets out to be an editor. It's something that happens to you, like jaundice or falling down a well." A woman named Bridget makes fun of the contrivances that writers rely on to move their stories along: "It's a cliché...a murder staged to look like a suicide. Every mystery writer uses it sooner or later. I used it in my second book." More of this tongue-in-cheek bantering would have been invigorating.
The author presents a baffling series of events that leave us almost completely in the dark. A sharp detective named Elizabeth Waishkey attempts to find out who committed the aforementioned murders. Liz empathizes with David but is extremely irritated when he starts his own investigation, putting himself at risk and interfering with her efforts. David's personality is not well delineated; his behavior runs the gamut from shrewd to incredibly stupid. In fact, with a few exceptions, the large cast of characters consists of self-centered and grating individuals. The second half of the book goes straight downhill; the plot becomes so convoluted that we need a scorecard to keep track of the proceedings. Although the author is obviously satirizing ridiculous works of fiction in which authors throw in everything but the kitchen sink, the twists and turns are more annoying than amusing. First, Dolan tries to convince us that Scenario A is true; later, he substitutes Scenario B for Scenario A. Just when you think that everything has been explained, along comes Scenario C. By the time the good guys are sorted out from the bad guys and the deep dark secrets are revealed, readers will be more exhausted than exhilarated. "Bad Things Happen" would have been much better had it been less heavy-handed and more cohesive.
on December 15, 2009
Harry Dolan has written one of the very best first novels I have ever come across. Bad Things Happen is a sweet mix of Agatha Christie's who done it's, Chandlers noir, Leonards banter and observational style, and a slew of contemporary artists. You can tell that Dolan LOVES mysteries. And if you love mysteries also, you will not be disappointed here.
Bad Things has its faults. I did not appreciate how it followed so many characters point of view. I think that it started off perfectly balanced for about half of the book, but upon reflection, some of the carefully crafted characters from earlier were left to fall apart as the plot shifted. Too much cleverness was added at the expense of a clean perfection that could have occurred.
Basically, the plot follows David Loogan, a man on the run from an unknown past. The women all seem to fall head over heals for this silent mysterious man. He is acutely intelligent. His mind works at a pace always one step ahead of the reader. David has found himself in a college town living in a rented flat, and working for a mystery magazine publication. The husband and wife owners of the publication are expertly drawn out and you get a real feel for them as people.
Soon though, David's past starts catching up, an unfortunate murder takes place, and the ball is rolling. As I said, the plot is good, not as great as the earlier character studies, the second half suffers just a little. But all in all this is just about as good as it gets. So five stars from me and I cant wait to get the next work by Dolan.
on June 19, 2010
David Loogan is a very mysterious man with a past and, although plenty of people are asking, he's not talking! A recent arrival in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Loogan is surprised when Tom Kristoll, the publisher of Gray Streets, a mystery magazine, offers him a job as an editor. He's even more surprised when Kristoll asks for his help burying a body. Perhaps, understanding that Loogan would prefer that his past also stay buried, Kristoll intuitively understands that Loogan won't be doing any talking. Later, when Kristoll falls (or perhaps he was pushed?) from his office window, Loogan's affair with Kristoll's wife marks him as a suspect. But, despite the police's best efforts, Loogan still isn't talking! The mystery moves into high gear and the staff and authors associated with Gray Streets begin to drop like flies. Like Agatha Christie's famous novel, AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, the body count escalates and the entire cast is rather nervously looking over their shoulders.
BAD THINGS HAPPEN is a very clever, exceptionally well written mystery in which first-time author Harry Dolan pays tribute to but also satirizes his predecessors and his fellow contemporary authors in the mystery genre. He even goes so far as to satirize himself by having his characters imagine a possible solution to the puzzling murders by contemplatively musing, "If this were a story in Gray Streets ...". The cast of possible suspects is an amusing, almost droll but very noir collection of self-important, pretentious, stuffy authors, editors and wannabes who suffer from a thoroughly modern set of psychoses and personality failings. In short, a strange set of characters with an equally strange collection of names such as Nathan Hideaway, Rex Chatterjee, Bridget Shellcross, Casimir Hifflyn and Valerie Calmero. Clearly, Harry Dolan is not afraid to tweak the noses of those, like himself, who would presume to enter the world of writing for a living.
Harry Dolan has done himself proud in an enjoyable debut novel with the mandatory clever twist ending that few readers will figure out in advance. Certainly I didn't. Highly recommended with a note that I'm eagerly looking forward to his second novel.
on July 30, 2009
Dolan dishes out a story that is crisp and riveting. Replete with all the twists, turns, and red herrings you yearn for in a good mystery, Dolan's characters jump out at you with their unexpected candor and quirky personalities. The ending had me so convoluted, I felt like I was on a roller coaster at Six Flags. I stumbled off the last page ready for an icy lemonade and a cool rag for my forehead. Whew! What a ride! I read this nearly straight through, with a few hours of sleep thrown in. I can't wait for the next book, featuring two of BTH's main characters.
Any book of fiction that holds this picky reader's attention from cover to cover deserves four stars right off the bat. That being said, "Bad Things Happen" starts out as a very easy to read, enjoyable mystery. The twisty plot made it a quick page-turner, but half-way through the author seemed to forget the KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid). Suddenly there were WAY too many twists--oodles of deaths, suspects and motives. Reader overload and ennui started setting in, but being so close to the end, I had to finish. This book has all the elements of a good TV soap opera. Not my cup of tea, but in the right hands it might be a thoroughly enjoyable read.
Harry Dolan's "Bad Things Happen" is a mystery fan's mystery. This book was written by an mystery afficianado; references to Raymond Chandler's works are sprinkled throughout the book and Dolan discusses the structure of mystery novels during the course of the story. I found the book to be engaging and the plot to be tightly wound. The main character, David Loogan, a man of mystery, held my interested and drew me into the story.
My quibbles: like some others, I found the dialogue to be too glib at times, but that didn't overwhelm me. The two protagonists were nicely drawn, but the suspects seemed a little too generic. The ending was a little weak.
Overall, this is a book you'll enjoy, especially if you're a hard core mystery fan.
on September 19, 2011
I was positive about this book (and a new-to-me author) initially but my enthusiasm declined seriously toward the last part of the book. The basic foundation is that the main character, David Loogan, is presented as a mysterious man that ends up quickly becoming involved professionally with the publisher of a short story mystery magazine in Ann Arbor, MI. Throughout the book, there were many comments about how this "real mystery" (in the book) differs from what it would be if it were a novel . That was interesting twist at first but got very wearing over time. There were several times for example when I thought how different it would be if it were indeed a real crime being investigated.
Loogan from the onset seemed like Mr. Milktoast rarely if ever questioning events and circumstances he continually seemed to "fall into" or "drift into". Quite unrealistically, he just goes along doing the job and becoming involved in intricate relationships, circumstances and intrigue. The book was positively fast-paced for a majority of the book with many changing situations and crime-solving challenges to keep the reader interested.
However, I lost interest toward the end when the pace changed. I chose those words carefully because the "ending" went on and on and on and on with twists and truns and twists and turns each becoming more and more tedious, circular, ridiculous and boring to the point of being absurd. The last 25% of the book negated most of the earlier positives in my opinion