Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan
The man who calls himself David Loogan is hoping to escape a violent past by living a quiet, anonymous life in Ann Arbor, Michigan. But when he's hired as an editor at a mystery magazine, he is drawn into an affair with the wife of the publisher, Tom Kristoll - a man who soon turns up dead.
Elizabeth Waishkey is the most talented detective in the Ann Arbor Police Department, but even she doesn't know if Loogan is a killer or an ally who might help her find the truth. As more deaths start mounting up - some of them echoing stories published in the magazine - it's up to Elizabeth to solve both murders and the mystery of Loogan himself.
I have to admit: the summary of this book didn't seem all that impressive. I read a few pages and see if I liked it, even though I wasn't expecting to, and got so caught up in the story I put everything else aside to read it. Loogan was enigmatic and slightly threatening from the beginning, which is what really drew me in. Plus, I was hoping Waishkey would be the femme-Sherlock Holmes the summary promised.
I'm a little disappointed in how Waishkey turned out. She was a great character and probably is a very good detective, but almost all of the "sleuthing" in Bad Things Happen was just speculation. The leads they uncovered never proved or disproved anything, just added another theory to the list of possibilities. So Waishkey wasn't really discovering any vital clues; no one was. One of my favorite parts of mystery novels is figuring out the importance of new leads, but most of the leads in Bad Things Happen led nowhere. There was absolutely no way to guess who the killer was until the killer was revealed. Almost everyone in the book was under speculation at one point, and the theories were all equally plausible or unlikely.
Normally a plot that corkscrews like that would seem badly planned and ill-fitting for a mystery novel, but it kind of worked for Dolan. It never felt like any of the characters were in all that much danger, barring a few scenes, so the only source of suspense was from not knowing who the killer was. The book was constantly interesting and the plot never dropped off, but I wasn't on the edge of my seat until the end of the book. When the mystery started to fit together, it picked up really quickly and everything started to make sense; Dolan didn't leave any loose ends lying around. Because of that, even without suspense and solid clues, Bad Things Happen was still majorly intriguing. I was captivated from the first page to the last.
The characters in Dolan's book are all subdued but well-depicted. They were likeable, and the bad guys were well-hidden. If they hadn't been, the whole book would have fallen apart, but I didn't figure out who they were until they drew their weapons, so to speak. Loogan's character was particularly interesting, as was his personal mystery. I was not disappointed when his past was revealed.
The biggest disappointment I have with this book is that none of the murders were "echoed stories published in the magazine." One of the killings was based off a murder in a (fake) mystery novel, but none were based on a story published in Gray Streets. I looked forward to seeing how Dolan worked that into the book, but it wasn't there.
On the other hand, the best part of the book was probably the interactions between the characters. The dialogue is witty and smooth, and Dolan doesn't waste a word. I usually find characters who don't give straight answers annoying, but Dolan worded their responses in such a way that it was hard to tell who was lying and who was telling it straight.
Bad Things Happen is a great book simply because it keeps you guessing. There are certainly better mystery novels out there, but I'm satisfied. I might even read the second book in the series.
Once Upon a Time...
As a longtime lover of stories and a believer in the power and magic of books, I've spent my life seeking out the best reads. This blog is dedicated to reviewing the books I read - good, bad, or magnificent - to help other readers find their next favorite books.