As usual, there will be no spoilers of the plot in this review.
Harry Dolan’s first novel Bad Things Happen caught my attention merely because of the title. But the premise does the trick nicely as well:
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.
For one, writers are a bunch of narcissistic motherfuckers and we like to read about writers. Because we’re interesting, right? I kid, but seriously, the matter-of-fact nature of the premise “plans go wrong, bad things happen, people die,” is enticing.
Loogan proves to be the kinda character I’ve always gravitated toward in fiction. Something of a Jack Reacher (from Lee Child’s long-running series of books), but if it’s possible, even more minimalist and subtle. Mostly, Loogan is imbued with this sense of mystery because we really don’t know much about him. He doesn’t say much, he doesn’t reveal much, but his presence is always felt. He’s just…cool.
Sometimes in genre fiction the prose, dialgoue and such can be lacking in favor of action, twists and turns and the progression of the plot. However, I think Dolan does a good job of providing a slick, subtle prose that moves at a quick pace without sacrificing any worth. And the thing is, those damn twists worked to perfection. I pride myself on being the freak that can predict an author’s twists and I usually do so quite well, but I will say, with full honesty, I had no idea what was going to happen in this one. It kept me guessing and then when it seemed like the events were unfolding this way, nope, they’d make a sharp left turn to a whole new direction I hadn’t thought about.
Much occurs within those opening chapters that make you think, “This dude’s throwing everything at us already, what’s left to tell?” Turns out, a whole lot. There were still many plans to go wrong, bad things to happen and people to die.
For instance, the first line of the book, “The shovel has to meet certain requirements.” Shit’s already off and running. Within those first few pages, I already found myself filled with tension. Seriously.
Let’s just say it, it’s a sexy book. Cool title, cool characters and a cool author with the ability to navigate the twists he’s engineered. Check it out, if you want a fairly light, but fun read.