Everyone's a Critic
The Observer's culture blogTuesday, January 18, 2011
BAD THINGS HAPPEN, by Eve Silberman
I'm not much of a mystery fan but when something by an Ann Arbor author with to-die-for reviews crossed my desk, I took the bait. First-time novelist Harry Dolan scored big with Bad Things Happen (and it doesn't end with To Good People; that's the Kushner self-help classic, if self-help books can be so described.) Reading the Oh, Wow! reviews by the likes of Stephen King, I opened it and waited to be Wowed. It took about 150 pages (out of 338 ) but as the corpses piled up and the plot twists became increasingly clever, I did more than take the bait: I was hooked.
The story's main man is newly arrived Ann Arborite David Loogan who "lives in a small furnished house on the west side" and was youthful enough looking that he "was not out of place in a university crowd." He gets a job editing a mystery magazine Gray Streets, published by one Tom Kristoll (Dolan gives almost everyone a slightly weird name) who soon enlists the new editor in an after hours' project: burying the corpse of a man whom, Kristoll claims, broke into his home. Soon, Kristoll himself is dead. Various people connected to the magazine are murdered. Loogan and clever Ann Arbor police detective Elizabeth Waishkey, first at odds, then in tandem, find themselves in a seemingly hopeless situation. The cleverness with which Dolan extracts them made me want to clap.
People hoping for a lot of Tree Town color will be disappointed; familiar streets and stores appear, but fleetingly. And others like me might be initially frustrated by the lack of anything that might be considered character development. But it's clear that mystery aficionados were charmed by a style that both echoed and mocked classic noir thrillers. My good things continue to happen to Harry Dolan--and is that his real name? It's so smooth, I'm suspicious.
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