BAD THINGS HAPPEN by Harry Dolan [Review]

Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan

It’s not often that I read a book set in a town where I’ve lived, so it was a treat to read Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan, which is set in the college town of Ann Arbor, Michigan. The mysterious David Loogan is fairly new in town and is renting a house near the campus of the University of Michigan from a professor away on sabbatical. Loogan is clearly a man with secrets and when we first meet him, it’s late at night and he’s nervously paying cash for a shovel. So the question is: Is he a good or a bad guy? And just what is he going to do with that shovel? The story that unfolds involves murder, mystery, and a little romance between Loogan and Ann Arbor Police detective Elizabeth Waishkey. At the center of everything is a literary magazine of crime stories called Gray Streets and the aspiring writers and bestselling novelists involved with the magazine.

Bad Things Happen has a very noir tone and feels like a throwback to mystery novels of the past. The characters all have intelligence, wit, and a cool confidence that just makes them seem very old school. I don’t know how realistic they are, but they are definitely entertaining. Loogan is an intriguing character and I found myself rooting for him even when I didn’t know whether he was good or bad. The whodunit aspect of the novel was also terrific and really kept me guessing until the very end. Ann Arbor has such a hippie vibe, I’d never have imagined setting a murder mystery there, but it really works. In fact, it’s made me look at the city in a new light.

I listened to the audiobook version of Bad Things Happen, which is narrated by Erik Davies. I thoroughly enjoyed his performance and can see why Library Journal selected it as one their picks for Best Audiobooks of 2009. I recommend Bad Things Happen to anyone looking for sophisticated crime fiction.

Update 4/21/2010: Bad Things Happen (as well as The Help and The Postmistress) was published by the Amy Einhorn imprint of Putnam. I enjoyed the book so much that I’ve decided to join the Amy Einhorn reading challenge over at Beth Fish Reads.

Quotes from Bad Things Happen:

The shovel has to meet certain requirements. A pointed blade. A short handle, to make it maneuverable in a confined space.

Plans go wrong. Bad things happen. People die.

If this were a story in Gray Streets…
This isn’t a story in Gray Streets.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars | Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam | Pages: 352 | Source: Purchased | Buy on Amazon

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