05 July 2010

Review: Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan

Harry Dolan's Bad Things Happen is a difficult book to categorize--mystery, dark humor, spoof, pulp fiction--and a difficult book to summarize.

When we meet the man who calls himself David Loogan, he is in a hardware store buying a shovel to dig a grave. What we don't know is who or what has died and what Loogan has to do with it.

Becoming an editor for Gray Streets, a small crime-fiction literary magazine, wasn't even in the realm of possibilities when Loogan moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan. But, as Tom Kristoll, the magazine's founder, says:

It's not like people go to school for it. No one sets out to be an editor. It's something that happens to you, like jaundice or falling down a well. (p. 13; eBook ed.)
A half a year later, Loogan has memorized the central theme of the stories he works on: Plans go wrong. Bad things happen. People die. After individuals associated with the magazine start turning up dead, the survivors are left asking two questions: (1) What do we really know about another person? and (2) If this were a story in Gray Streets, what would happen next?

Dolan takes us on a dark and zany jaunt through the streets of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan campus. There are no white and black hats to tell us which team each character plays on. There is no linear progression of clues and events. It is a book of third ways:
"It's just something I've noticed," she said. "You're waiting for something to happen, and you expect it to go one of two ways. But you're wrong, because there's always a third way." . . .

"What's the third way, then?"

"That's just it. You never know. . . . But we're going to find out." (pp. 76-77)
Bad Things Happen is a crazy, suspenseful, fun journey.

The audiobook edition (Penguin Audio) was narrated by Erik Davies, who was perfect for the novel. Davies keeps us guessing at the true nature of David Loogan and takes us smoothly from action scene to satire without crossing the line to silly. A great listen. Library Journal named Bad Things Happen one of the best audiobooks of 2009.

To learn more about Harry Dolan, see the book trailer, and read an excerpt, visit the author's website.

This book was featured as part of the Amy Einhorn Books Reading Challenge (click to join the fun). For information about the imprint, please read Amy Einhorn's open letter posted here on January 25, 2010.

Bad Things Happen at Powell's
For Audible.com and Simply Audiobooks, see the sidebar,
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Published by Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, 2009
ISBN-13: 9780399155635
Challenges: Amy Einhorn Reading Challenge, 100+
YTD: 60
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Rating: B+
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

13 comments:

Sandy Nawrot 7/5/10, 8:05 AM  

Alright then, you have convinced me to see if my library has this audio. Plus, I'm kinda sucking on the Amy Einhorn thing. I really need to read more than one of these incredible books...

Beth S. 7/5/10, 8:08 AM  

Great review! I didn't know if I wanted to read this one until I read your review.

caite 7/5/10, 8:27 AM  

mystery, dark humor, spoof, pulp fiction..I must say, you sold me!..lol

bermudaonion 7/5/10, 10:51 AM  

This does sound rather zany, but in a good way!

Margot at Joyfully Retired 7/5/10, 12:06 PM  

I really liked this book but it is very hard to describe. Just the other day my sister and I were in a book store and we saw the book. I tried to tell her about it and why I thought she would enjoy it. Too hard to describe in a few short sentences. You, however, did just fine. I think this might have been better in audio.

Beth Hoffman 7/5/10, 8:32 PM  

Though I'm uncertain if I want to read this book, I loved your review and I also loved this quote: "It's not like people go to school for it. No one sets out to be an editor. It's something that happens to you, like jaundice or falling down a well."

Carrie K. 7/5/10, 10:15 PM  

I just bought this one last month - sounds like a lot of fun!

Michele at Reader's Respite 7/5/10, 10:46 PM  

I've been really interested in this book, so I was very pleased to see your review. I think after hearing what you had to say about it, it's going on my official "to buy" list now.

Michele at Reader's Respite 7/6/10, 9:43 AM  

I've been really interested in this book, so I was very pleased to see your review. I think after hearing what you had to say about it, it's going on my official "to buy" list now.

Jennifer 7/6/10, 5:22 PM  

I love books that are anything but ordinary. This definitely sounds intriguing to me. And I love the quotes you included in your review and the cover.

Jenners 7/6/10, 9:20 PM  

This sounds like a book right up my alley!

The Bumbles 7/7/10, 1:37 PM  

I saw this book somewhere else a while ago and added to to my Goodreads shelf. It is still waiting there for me - I enjoy fun quirky reads. Looking forward to it.

Literate Housewife 7/8/10, 11:00 PM  

I have had this book on my shelf for how long - all the while not realizing that it's set in Michigan? Sometimes I wonder what the heck is wrong with me! I need to read this book and I'm in a mystery/thriller mood to boot.

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