Audiobook Review: Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan

15 07 2011

Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan

Read by Erik Davies

Penguin Audio

Genre: Mystery

Quick Thoughts: Bad Things Happen is full of great characters, surprising twists, and just the right amount of action that it makes a great read, but what puts it over the top is the author’s obvious love for the genre that seeps out with every work he writes.

Grade: B+

I think that mystery lovers would make the worst real life detectives. Sure, they could probably quickly figure out who the killer is on Law & Order: Special Criminal Victim LA, and are the only ones not standing around with that stupid slack-jaw look on their face as Hercule Poirot announces who the real killer is yet and I’m just pulling this stat out of the air, 99% of all murders are too simple to ever make a good novel. Mystery lovers have been trained to look past the obvious, when typically the obvious solution is usually the correct solution. We see a man standing over the bullet ridden copse of his biggest enemy with a smoking gun and we wonder just exactly who set this poor man up for murder. That’s the fun of mysteries. Sure, we need to suspend belief a bit, but good mystery fans are always looking for the implausible possibility, and having a lot of fun doing it. In the novel, Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan a series of murders has entangled our mysterious protagonist, short story editor David Loogan, who uses his experience in editing crime stories to attempt to figure out the mysteries surrounding the murders. Yet, as Loogan tries to decipher the crime, Ann Arbor police officer Elizabeth Waishkey must deal with this seemingly sweet, yet perhaps misguided wannabe detective, whose past may contain secrets that call his reliability into question. 

I was truly surprised by how much I enjoyed Bad Things Happen. I had expected a typical mystery, yet what I got was a unique tale full of dark humor, and a nearly savage satire of the publishing industry. Many of the suspects are successful novelists, editors, and aspiring writers, each with devastating secrets and hidden motives. Dolan offers a lot of humor in the affected nature of the novelists, each wanting to deflect attention away from themselves, yet cannot resist brainstorming about the motives and actions of the killer. While at times the plot seems to go off in tangents, and lead us down fruitless paths, Dolan pulls it all together nicely. Sure, the mystery is a bit over the top, and the final reveal bordering on cliché, but it’s all done with such flair that you can’t help but enjoy it. Bad Things Happen is full of great characters, surprising twists, and just the right amount of action that it makes a great read, but what puts it over the top is the author’s obvious love for the genre that seeps out with every work he writes.

Erik Davies does a fantastic job with Bad Things Happen. He capably voices both protagonists, impressively handling the female role of Elizabeth. Yet, what I most enjoyed was the way he handles the peripheral characters, especially the novelists, with their arrogant patronizing and affected tones. Davies expertly builds just the right amount of tensions with his reading, yet infuses it with a touch of humor appropriate for the novel. Mystery fans will struggle to discover the mystery behind this whodunit, but will enjoy themselves trying to come up with their own far flung theories of the crime. What more do you want in a good mystery novel?

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