It seems like lately I’ve been reading a lot of debut novels. I didn’t plan it, but on several occasions I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Such was the case when I picked up “Bad things happen” by first time novelist Harry Dolan.
The book was unsettling for many reasons. First and foremost because the reader doesn’t know who the protagonist is for the bulk of the book. He is referred to for the most part as ‘the man who calls himself David Loogan’. Who is he really? An ex-cop (therefore a good guy) — an ex-felon (therefore a bad guy)? The reader is made tense by the possibilities.
Set in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the novel follows the solitary Loogan who accidentally befriends a periodical publisher, Tom Kristoll. He eventually works for Tom as an editor for Tom’s mystery magazine “Grey Streets”. In due course, Loogan has an affair with Tom’s beautiful wife. But life imitates the stories in ‘Grey Streets’. Plans go wrong, bad things happen, people die…
The second protagonist in the novel is female homicide detective Elizabeth Waishkey. When Tom Kristoll dies, she meets David Loogan and is unsure whether he is a suspect or someone who can help her solve the case.
Written in a ‘noir’ style, “Bad things happen” is a very promising debut which held my attention and my interest until the last page. The characterizations were deftly rendered. Difficult when the reader doesn’t really even know who the protagonist is! Bravo Harry Dolan!