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" 'Bad Things Happen' in
Ann Arbor-based novel"
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. When Tom offers him a job as an editor, Loogan sees no harm in accepting. What he doesn't realize is that the stories in Gray Streets tend to follow a simple formula: Plans go wrong. Bad things happen. People die.
Elizabeth Waishkey is a single mother raising a fifteen-year-old daughter. She's also the most talented detective in the Ann Arbor Police Department. But when Tom Kristoll turns up dead, she doesn't know quite what to make of David Loogan. Is he a killer, or an ally who might help her find the truth? Loogan, for his part, would like to trust her, but he has his own agenda. He suspects his friend's death is part of a much larger puzzle, and he's not going to wait for someone else to put the pieces together.
As Loogan and Elizabeth navigate their way through the Kristolls' world, they find no shortage of people with motives for murder, from a young graduate student obsessed with Laura Kristoll to a trio of bestselling writers, all of them with secrets they don't want uncovered. But as the deaths start mounting up -- some of them echoing stories published in Gray Streets -- Loogan begins to look more and more like the most promising suspect. Soon it becomes clear that only Elizabeth can find the path to solving both the murders and the mystery of Loogan himself. But by the time she unravels the twisted skein, Loogan may be indicted for murder -- or, more likely, become the next victim.
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REVIEWS OF BAD THINGS HAPPEN
> The Washington Post (August 3, 2009):
"Harry Dolan's droll and delightful first novel opens with a simple, ominous sentence: 'The shovel has to meet certain requirements.' This suggests the shovel in question may be intended for other than routine gardening chores. It suggests that, well, bad things may happen, which they soon do, in profusion. . . . [BAD THINGS HAPPEN is] witty, sophisticated, suspenseful and endless fun -- a novel to be savored by people who know and love good crime fiction, and the best first novel I've read this year."
-- Patrick Anderson
> The New York Times (August 2, 2009):
"A man who calls himself David Loogan settles down in Ann Arbor, Mich., takes an editing job at a literary mystery magazine called Gray Streets, forms a friendship with the publisher, has an affair with the publisher's wife and helps his employer dig a grave for a man he has just killed. All this happens in the opening chapters of Harry Dolan's first novel, BAD THINGS HAPPEN (Amy Einhorn/Putnam), so you better believe he has a gift for storytelling. . . ."
-- Marilyn Stasio
> The Daily Mail (July 29, 2010):
"A wry and intriguing first thriller from a young American, this is an intricately plotted tale that would not disgrace Patricia Highsmith or Agatha Christie, and it announces the arrival of a natural story-teller. . . . Written in subtle, resonant prose, this is thriller-writing of the highest order. . . ." > Read more.
> Chicago Tribune (July 25, 2009):
"Before I read this brilliant first novel set in Ann Arbor, Mich., the only things I knew about the city's publishing and writing scene were the University of Michigan's fine output and the fact that W.H. Auden lived and taught there after being dumped by a nasty boyfriend. What I didn't know about Ann Arbor is how active the crime fiction scene is. In BAD THINGS HAPPEN, Harry Dolan, who lives there, conjures up a setting where the bodies fall like cordwood. He gives us a writer named David Loogan, who writes for and helps edit a mystery magazine called Gray Streets. . . ."
-- Dick Adler
> The Dallas Morning News (August 16, 2009):
"The twist is the most delicate stunt an author can perform in a crime novel. . . .
Harry Dolan nails the twist -- and just about everything else -- in his debut novel, BAD THINGS HAPPEN."
-- Shawna Seed
> South Florida Sun-Sentinel (September 13, 2009):
"The theme of just about every mystery novel and short story can be summed up 'Plans go wrong, bad things happen, people die,' according to several characters in Harry Dolan's witty, dark and richly plotted debut."
-- Oline H. Cogdill
> Publishers Weekly (*Starred review, May 25, 2009):
"Dolan gets everything right in his debut, a suspense novel that breathes new life into familiar themes. The enigmatic David Loogan, who's recently moved to Ann Arbor, Mich., has stumbled into an editing job for Gray Streets, a mystery magazine, after anonymously submitting a short story. One night, Loogan's boss, Tom Kristoll, asks him for help in disposing of a corpse. Loogan goes to Kristoll's house and does so, despite his suspicions that Kristoll's account of how the man ended up dead is incomplete at best. When Kristoll later dies in a fall from his office window, the police mark Loogan, who's been having an affair with Kristoll's wife, as a person of interest. Pitch-perfect prose and sophisticated characterizations drive the noirish plot, which offers plenty of unexpected twists. Fans of Peter Abrahams and Scott Turow will find a lot to like. While the solution may strike some as a tad improbable, the talent Dolan displays suggests he has a bright future."
> Booklist (*Starred review, May 1, 2009):
"Take a ride on the mean streets of . . . Ann Arbor? This tasty tale employs the somewhat common trope of crime among crime writers to decidedly uncommon effect. David Loogan, a man with a mysterious past, tries his hand at writing a short story for Gray Streets, a literary crime-fiction journal. His inability to stop tinkering with it lands him an editing job, leading to friendship with the popular editor Tom Kristoll and his wife, Laura. But then Loogan sleeps with Laura, Tom is defenestrated, and Loogan is on a hunt for the killer, despite constant reminders that "this isn't a story from Gray Streets." Oh, but it is. As more people die, every character, every motive -- and every conceivable combination of characters and motives -- must be considered, and Loogan's own actions put him at odds with an equally determined detective, Elizabeth Waishkey. This murderer's row of writers, editors, and interns would kill for good editing -- or maybe because of it. Dolan's neatly symmetrical plot is tight, his dialogue is crisp, and his humor wry. (Rarely have suspects been so archly articulate.) A twisty whodunit with a thriller's pace, BAD THINGS HAPPEN lends new meaning to the term 'ghostwriters'."
-- Keir Graff
> Library Journal (*Starred review, July 15, 2009):
"Shortly after a man who calls himself David Loogan arrives in Ann Arbor, he gets a job as assistant editor to Tom Kristoll and begins sleeping with Tom's wife, Laura. Then Tom asks him to help bury a body lying in the office of "Gray Streets", the mystery magazine they edit. When Tom is found dead six floors below his office window, Det. Elizabeth Waishkey begins to investigate -- and so does Loogan. . . . Dolan has fun contrasting real and fictional detecting, and all the characters are keenly aware of this, too. VERDICT: For a debut novelist, Dolan, a freelance editor, is unusually skilled in narrative. His humor shows not only in the fiction-vs.-reality theme but also in the twists and turns of plot and language that keep the characters and the reader guessing -- and engrossed. Highly recommended for readers who enjoy twisty and witty crime thrillers."
-- Roland Person, Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale
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> "BookMark," WPSU Radio
Linda Short reviews BAD THINGS HAPPEN. > Listen to the review here.
> Mystery Scene Magazine (#110, Summer 2009):
"Harry Dolan's terrific debut novel, BAD THINGS HAPPEN, is an old fashioned kind of mystery, a true whodunit for today's savvy readers, but with its roots steeped in the noir tradition."
-- Bob Smith
> Minneapolis Star Tribune (October 25, 2009):
"Tightly written, slyly funny and cleverly plotted."
-- Sharon Kessler
> The Grand Rapids Press (August 16, 2009):
"Left in less capable hands, Dolan's novel could have pressed readers' sleuthing acumen into an intellectual pretzel, but he possesses the creative juice to adeptly keep his prose on track until it reaches its O Henry surprise conclusion."
-- Paul R. Kopenkoskey
> Cheboygan Daily Tribune (August 15, 2009):
"Smart, unpredictable. . . . Harry Dolan has crafted a wily, engrossing tale of a man caught up in violence not of his making. David Loogan is a character that deserves a long life, in many more books."
-- Sue Bronson
> Calgary Herald (July 26, 2009):
"Mystery man David Loogan is living an uneventful life in his new home town of Ann Arbor. But things go sideways after he takes a job at a mystery magazine and strikes up a friendship with the publisher and his wife. As the body count rises, Loogan must convince Det. Elizabeth Waishkey that the cops have the wrong man (him) and find the real killer. The action in this neo noir treat zips along, but not at the expense of well-drawn characters, tight plotting and distinctive dialogue. Dolan has made my list of authors to watch for."
-- Ruth Myles
> The Christian Science Monitor (October 5, 2009):
" 'Plans go wrong, bad things happen, people die,' magazine publisher Tom Kristoll sums up the mysteries he publishes in Harry Dolan's sly sendup of the genre, BAD THINGS HAPPEN. Then he gets pushed from a sixth-floor window. This is just a few days after asking his editor, David Loogan, for a favor: Kristoll needed help burying a body. Kristoll lied about how the body got in his study (twice), and David Loogan isn't the editor's real name. You don't have to be a Raymond Chandler fan to enjoy this delightfully smart debut novel, but it sure helps."
> The Madison County Herald (October 24, 2009):
"With BAD THINGS HAPPEN, first-time novelist Harry Dolan has created a cunning enigma who stumbles upon work and death in one fell swoop. The man who calls himself David Loogan has mysteriously arrived in Ann Arbor, Mich., in order to escape a shadowy past. His life's about to get a lot more complicated. . . ."
-- JC Patterson
> BookPage (July 2009):
"With his debut novel, BAD THINGS HAPPEN, author Harry Dolan has channeled the great noir mystery novelists like James M. Cain and Jim Thompson. He has crafted a sly and suspense-filled tale set in the environs of a mystery periodical, Gray Streets."
-- Bruce Tierney
> SarahWeinman.com (June 21, 2009):
"BAD THINGS HAPPEN is a nifty debut, cleverly told and unfurled from the very first line."
"Caustically witty and hair-raisingly scary, BAD THINGS HAPPEN bursts onto the literary scene with a story teeming with new twists on nearly every page and action that will leave its readers breathless. David Loogan is a great new character, as is Detective [Elizabeth] Waishkey, a pair readers will want to see a lot more of -- if they survive. If ever there were a tale of one's past coming back to haunt, this is it."
-- Kate Ayers
> Bookloons (July 2009):
"The word is that author Harry Dolan's Bad Things Happen is his debut novel. If so, Dolan is a writer of incredible talent. Remember old-time crime noir? Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett? Remember when criminals were brought down by sharp, savvy detectives? When it was about the crime, and the cat-and-mouse, and outsmarting the bad/good guy? Bad Things Happen captures it.
"Protagonist David Loogan isn't who he appears to be. He keeps secrets, and talks little. Is he a good man, an honorable man? Or does he hide a criminal past? That's what Ann Arbor, Michigan police detective Elizabeth Waishkey wants to know. Editor Tom Kristoll hires a writer, Loogan, to be assistant editor for Kristoll's crime fiction magazine, Gray Streets. Not long after, Tom asks Loogan to help him bury a body that has been murdered in Tom's office. Hesitant, Loogan nonetheless, agrees. Later, when Tom is killed, Loogan is determined to find out who pushed his friend out of his office window on the sixth floor. Even though Loogan admits to detectives that he's slept with Tom's wife Laura, he insists he didn't kill Tom. Waishkey doesn't think he did either. But someone did, and someone killed three others associated with Gray Streets, too. Loogan and Waishkey work on the case, but not necessarily together.
"Riveting, heart-pounding, and other similar adjectives just seem ineffective in describing Bad Things Happen. This is the best crime fiction I've read in a long time, maybe ever. Dolan uses spare language, clipped sentences, and smart dialog. Subtle and powerful characterization combines with a relentless, forward-moving plot to create chest-tightening tension. What is not said by his characters is as powerful as what is said. Masterful writing doesn't require gimmicks like vulgar language and raunchy sex. You'll lunge on toward the conclusion. Expect to skip meals. One question wasn't answered by the book: Mr. Dolan, how long do we have to wait for your next one?"
-- Deb Kincaid