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Bad Things Happen    by Harry Dolan order for
Bad Things Happen
by Harry Dolan
Order:  USA  Can
Putnam, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Deb Kincaid

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?

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