Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mystery Book Review: Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan


Putnam (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-399-15563-5 (0399155635)
ISBN-13: 978-0-399-15563-5 (9780399155635)
Publication Date: July 2009
List Price: $24.95

Review: Harry Dolan's extraordinary debut novel, Bad Things Happen, has so many delightful twists and turns that many readers will, upon finishing it, no doubt start over and re-read it just to see what may have been missed the first time through.

The man who calls himself David Loogan is introduced on the first page as someone who doesn't want to be familiar. Nondescript. Unmemorable. Living alone in Ann Arbor (Michigan), and as a way to pass the time, he submits a short story to a local mystery magazine, Gray Streets. The publisher, Tom Kristoll, recognizes his talent and hires him to be an editor. The two become close friends ... then one night Tom asks Loogan to help him bury a body. Loogan doesn't ask any questions -- he's trying to remain relatively anonymous himself -- but can't help but get involved when Tom's body is later found at the base of his office building, an apparent suicide. The investigating officer, Elizabeth Waishkey, suspects Loogan knows more about Tom's death than he initially lets on. That Loogan was having an affair with Tom's wife is certainly suspicious. But Loogan also has doubts about the mysterious circumstances surrounding how Tom died. And about that body they buried together: who was it, how did he die, and does his murder(?) have anything to do with Tom's death?

It is often tricky reviewing a book as intricately plotted as Bad Things Happen without revealing too much. As much as the mystery seems to revolve around Tom, the dead and buried body, and Tom's subsequent demise, it is impossible to lose sight of the fact that just who exactly is the man who calls himself David Loogan remains an unknown as well. And maybe more importantly, what role is he playing in the book? Is he a culprit (and if so, of what), or is he a victim? The cat and mouse game between Loogan and Detective Waishkey, especially after a couple more people turn up dead, is marvelously played out, and the conclusion, as befits such a terrific novel, is elegantly clever.

Thoroughly entertaining, Bad Things Happen will certainly be included on, if not at the top of, lists of the best mystery novels this year. It's that good.

Special thanks to Penguin Group for providing a copy of Bad Things Happen for this review.

Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

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Synopsis (from the publisher): The man who calls himself David Loogan is leading a quiet, anonymous life in the college town of Ann Arbor, Michigan. He's hoping to escape a violent past he would rather forget. But his solitude is broken when he finds himself drawn into a friendship with Tom Kristoll, the publisher of the mystery magazine Gray Streets-and into an affair with Laura, Tom's sleek blond wife. What Loogan doesn't realize is that the stories in Gray Streets tend to follow a simple formula: Plans go wrong. Bad things happen. People die.

Elizabeth Waishkey is a single mother. She's also the most talented detective in the Ann Arbor Police Department. But when Tom Kristoll turns up dead, she doesn't know quite what to make of David Loogan. Is he a killer, or an ally who might help her discover the truth? Loogan suspects his friend's death is part of a much larger puzzle, and he's not going to wait for someone else to put the pieces together.

As Loogan and Elizabeth navigate their way through Kristoll's world, they find no shortage of people with motives for murder, from a young graduate student obsessed with Laura Kristoll to a trio of bestselling writers, all of them with secrets they don't want uncovered. But as the deaths start mounting up-some of them echoing stories published in Gray Streets-Loogan begins to look more and more like the most promising suspect. Soon it becomes clear that only Elizabeth can find the path to solving both the murders and the mystery of Loogan himself.

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