Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Review of "Bad Things Happen" [75]

Bad Things Happen: A Novel by Harry Dolan
Amy Einhorn Books, ISBN 978-0399155635
July 23, 2009, 352 pages.

"The shovel had to meet certain requirements. A pointed blade. A short handle, to make it maneuverable in a confined space."
Have you ever heard the saying that you can tell who are you true friends are because they are the one that you would call to help you bury the body. Well, "the man who calls himself David Loogan" and his boss Tom Kristoll must be grand pals, because it is David who gets the call to help deal with the body laying in Tom's study. He does not buy Tom's story about it being the body of a burglar and that he doesn't want the publicity that would come from calling the police. But who is David to press too hard. After all he has his own secrets, including the affair he is having with his friend's wife Laura.

David had not really been looking for a job. He was new to the college down of Ann Arbor and came upon a magazine, full of mystery stories, called Gray Streets. On a whim, he wrote a story and submitted it to the magazine anonymously. But he was not satisfied, did some editing and again submitted it anonymously. The third time he tried to drop off yet another newly edited version at night at the magazine's office, the owner, Tom, caught him and offered him a job as an editor, something he seems to have a talent for. He took the job, although he really didn't want to and he became friends with Tom and Laura, again without really trying and drifted into an affair when Laura pursued him. Things just seem to happen to David sometimes, and some of them are going to end very badly.

First, Tom's ends up dead, fallen from his office window in what police is murder made to looks, not too successfully, like suicide. Happily, David was a alibi, even if it is the dead man's wife. But he will not be the last to die and David, for reason that are not at first quite clear, feels a need try and help solve the mystery..always a dangerous thing to do, especially if like David you may have some secrets of your own.

I recently read a review of this book, I know not where. Which is sad, because I would like to thank that person for pointing this book out to me.
It was a great fun read, with a complicated plot that is always taking some twists and turns and dropping all sorts of red herrings. Even with all the deaths..and the bodies do start to pile up, this is not really a violent book. The murders had a bit of an Agatha Christie quality to them, although things to get a little hairy toward the end and the danger becomes more real and personal.

There are two things that I simply loved about this book. Great characters and great dialogue. The dialogue is real and believable and perhaps best of all, very witty at times. David is a clever fellow and he thinks and speaks like a clever fellow which is great fun for the reader.
Yes, David is a great character, but he is by no mean the only one, including the very talented police detective investigating the murder, Elizabeth Waishkey. Honorable mention goes to her daughter Sarah, a great character and a budding juggler. I will say, there are a good number of characters in this book, which can sometime be confusing, and it speaks to the author's skill that they are all very clear and distinct and well fleshed out. The proof of that is that I could remember who they all were without having to flip back in the pages.

A fun romp of a mystery, good story, good writing and great characters, a number of which, including David, Elizabeth and Sarah, appear in Mr. Dolan's second book, now out, called Very Bad Men.
You may guess what I will be read soon!


  1. LOVED this book .. I just got the second book and am looking forward to it .. the setting of Ann Arbor and the odd feeling its not set in the present combine to make it a really good read.

  2. darn, guess I am going to have to buy it now... ;-)

  3. I do believe it is also an Amy Einhorn book, which explains alot. I did buy this one and it still sits on my shelf, but you have motivated me to pull it out!

  4. I have Very Bad Men and it sounds like I should buy this one. I love mysteries that have a little humor in them.

  5. Oh … I 've seen this around but wasn't sure about it. Now I shall pick it up to read!


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