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Bad Things Happen Paperback – June 16, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Dolan's highly praised debut has shades of Elmore Leonard in its realistic dialogue that is at once over-the-top but true to form. The story takes place in Ann Arbor, Mich., where David Loogan has just accepted a position at Gray Streets mystery magazine—and embarked on an affair with his new boss's wife. It's not long before bodies begin turning up left and right, and a young investigator is involved. Abby Erik Davies delivers a performance so raw and exposed that listening becomes less a choice and more a compulsion. It's brilliant on every level. A Putnam hardcover (Reviews, May 25). (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Compared to works by Raymond Chandler, Agatha Christie, and Patricia Highsmith, Bad Things Happen rated as a "brilliant first novel" (Chicago Tribune) and "the best first novel [of the] year" (Washington Post) among most critics. They praised Dolan's crisp, minimalist prose and well-developed, flesh-and-blood protagonists. Dolan's intricate plot, full of surprising twists and turns, eschews showdowns and shootouts in favor of droll dialogue and a noirish, Chandleresque tone. Though the San Francisco Chronicle deplored the glut of subplots and secondary characters, most reviewers agreed that Dolan's debut effort is stylish, sharp-edged, and suspenseful. "It's probably too clever to be blockbuster material," lamented the Washington Post, but readers in search of a literate mystery are in for a treat. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
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!
Highly recommended--an entertaining thriller that is sure to keep the reader on the edge of his seat.
"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.