Review: Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan

This is the debut novel by Harry Dolan and while it serves to introduce David Loogan and the city of Ann Arbor, Michigan, it also provides a deftly conceived thriller. In some ways it recalls the type of whodunits that made Agatha Christie so popular with a series of murders that could have been committed by any one of a number of different characters introduced during the course of the story.

Book Details

Title : Bad Things Happen
Author : Harry Dolan
ISBN : 9780425234402
Pages : 352 pp
Published Date : 2010
Publisher : G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Sub-Genre : Hardboiled
Main Characters : David Loogan, Elizabeth Waishkey

Bad Things Happen is available at

Publisher's Synopsis

​The man who calls himself David Loogan is hoping to escape a violent past by living a quiet, anonymous life in Ann Arbor, Michigan. But when he's hired as an editor at a mystery magazine, he is drawn into an affair with the sleek blond wife of the publisher, Tom Kristoll - a man who soon turns up dead.

Elizabeth Waishkey is the most talented detective in the Ann Arbor Police Department, but even she doesn't know if Loogan is a killer or an ally who might help her find the truth. As more deaths start mounting up - some of them echoing stories published in the magazine - it's up to Elizabeth to solve both the murders and the mystery of Loogan himself.

Review of Bad Things Happen

Right from the start of the book we are thrust into an intriguing situation when we are introduced to David Loogan who is in the middle of an urgent task. We also get the impression that it’s a task that he would rather no-one finds out about.

“The shovel has to meet certain requirements. A pointed blade. A short handle to make it maneuverable in a confined space. He finds what he needs in the gardening section of a vast department store...His wallet holds a credit card in the name of David Loogan. It’s not the name he was born with, but it’s what he calls himself now. He’s not going to use the credit card.”

It’s a fine opening gambit of a debut novel, particularly when it’s paired with the revelation that Loogan would prefer to remain nondescript and unmemorable. But it leaves the reader wondering whether he is an evil character or one of the good guys. It’s a question that could possibly be answered either way at various times throughout the course of the story.

David Loogan is, in fact, a man who works as an editor for a local mystery magazine - Gray Streets.​ The way in which Loogan picks up his position as an editor at the magazine comes about in unusual circumstances, but the result is that he develops a good friendship with Tom Kristoll, the magazine publisher. His friendship becomes so good that he is willing to agree to help him in a little after hours assignment which is where the digging equipment and need for anonymity comes in.

​There are a lot of people connected to the success of a mystery magazine, no matter how small it may be. There are the editors, the contributors, student interns and a publisher all of whom have access to the magazine offices. So when people connected to the magazine start dying – and their deaths are made to look unconvincingly like suicides – the police start to look at the other employees pretty closely.

​Such is the case with Gray Streets and those who work on it.

​The police investigation comes in the form of Detective Elizabeth Waishkey who is quickly aware that the death is not a suicide. She is also aware that although Loogan knows more than he’s actually telling her, he did not commit the murder. They soon develop an interesting relationship where they clearly don’t trust each other but are willing to offer small pieces of their respective investigations to one another.

​For his part, Loogan is far from happy with the conclusions that are being drawn over the deaths that have occurred so far, and when a third takes place in his own home he decides it would be best to make himself scarce. The problem is, disappearing immediately after a murder has been committed in your house tends to make you look guilty in the eyes of the law.

This is a rather complex story that challenges the reader on a number of levels. First you have to decide just how honest David Loogan may be. Next is the question of his past and how it might be relevant to the events that are currently unfolding. Finally you have to work out who the killer might be, given the diverse group of characters who are placed in front of you.​

​There is a real microscope placed on the publishing world in Bad Things Happen and the possible personalities that may be tested to breaking point. As Loogan continues to dig for the truth he begins to uncover details of a manuscript that may have been written by one person but was credited to another. Is this enough to spark a series of murders?

​I found this to be a thriller that reeled me in the further I read. It moves along at significant pace and covers a lot of territory in a short space of time so you have to keep your wits about you. With such a large cast of characters, many of whom remain as credible possible suspects, the story begins to take on a real Agatha Christie-type of ending with the killer picked out of the group.

​Ultimately there is a clue that points us to the actual killer, it’s a small piece of information that might be easy to miss, but it’s there to read if you’re paying attention.

​This is a fine debut thriller that serves as an outstanding introduction to David Loogan while also showcasing the city of Ann Arbor, Michigan.

You can get more information about the David Loogan series and find a listing of all of the Harry Dolan books in order by visiting the Harry Dolan author page.