September 18, 2009

BOOKS: Bad Things Happen, Harry Dolan (2009)

David Loogan (or, as he is frequently referred to from page 1, "the man who calls himself David Loogan") is living quietlly in Ann Arbor when he meets Tom Kristoll, publisher of the mystery magazine Gray Streets. The Gray Streets story formula, Tom explains, is a simple one: Plans go wrong; bad things happen; people die.

That's also the formula on which Dolan's novel offers some nifty variations. David accepts Tom's offer of an editing job, and shortly thereafter begins an affair with Tom's wife, Laura. So when Tom turns up dead, David is at the top of the suspect list.

Not that there aren't a variety of good suspects to choose from, mind you. There's Laura, of course, and several of the authors who write for Gray Streets may have had motive. As the murders begin to pile up, often in imitation of those found in Gray Streets or in its authors' novels, the number of suspects continues to grow.

If this were the late 1940s, Bad Things Happen would make a sharp little film noir -- crisp, knowing dialogue; a tough guy hero, and an equally tough heroine, the chief police investigator on the case; clever plot twists.

This would be a fine piece of work from a veteran writer, but it's Dolan's first novel, which makes it an even more impressive feat. Highly recommended.

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