One word came to mind reading Harry Dolan’s prose:
Okay, another: straightforward.
And that’s not to say it’s not powerful.
“Bad Things Happen” is pulled-tight, clenched jaw stuff.
There’s a lot to like here, particularly the idea of setting a murder mystery in and around the staff of a mystery magazine, Gray Streets.
The start provides a genuine jolt; one of the best three-page hooks you’ll come across.
I loved some of the character names, but don’t ask me why. Elizabeth Waishkey is a name developed by an author who likes odd monikers and wants them to stick. Bridget Shellcross, another. Michael Beccanti. Valerie Calnero. Cassimir Hifflyn.
David Loogan is another but it’s special for its own reasons. I’m not giving anything away here.
And then there’s the writing. I searched high and low for a bit of poetry, some imagery like they teach in the fancy writing schools. Not much, not here. A sample:
“The door to Bridget Shellcross’s townhouse had been answered by a woman with a pageboy haircut. She was tall and athletic and dressed for a workout; her bare arms were well toned. She led Elizabeth to a sitting room decorated with designer furniture: squarish shapes in leather with bands of dark wood and burnished metal.”
This is as dry as Raymond Carver (and kind of refreshing in its own way). There’s nothing forced here. It works. Dolan never strays from his style.
I thought there were too many scenes where characters sat around imagining various “what if” scenarios to think about who might have killed whom. (Yes, more than one.) And I’m not a big fan of confessions/back stories while the guns are drawn but before the final shoot-out (so to speak) but in “Bad Things Happen” the dark, dry vibe is relentless and it will draw you in.