Mark Zieg's Reviews > Bad Things Happen

Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan
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Jun 19, 2010

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bookshelves: reviewed, post-college, book-circle
Read on June 17, 2010

I can't honestly call this a "good" book, but it surely is a fun one -- the literary equivalent of a Snickers bar. This is grim and gritty crime noir, delivered in a deadpan sardonic drawl that never takes itself too seriously.

In a delightfully perverse twist, not only is the principle murder victim a mystery pulp editor -- slain with Shakespeare, no less -- but the entire stable of suspects are themselves mystery writers and genre junkies. Thus, nearly every conversation provides opportunity for some stander-by to spin a freshly speculative yarn about how the crime might have been committed -- or would have been, "were we in a mystery novel" -- dealing an ongoing deluge of denouements. Finally, the endgame featured more bait-and-switch false finales than a Peter Jackson movie, keeping the dice rolling until the last page was turned.

Although I've never read any Raymond Chandler or Mickey Spillane, I sense that I owe these hardboiled veterans of lowbrow entertainment a second chance. The book played like a script for recent throwback films like "Shoot'em Up" and "Sin City", with a kitschy, bourbon-flavored masculinity reminiscent of Roger Zelazny's less hallucinogenic moments, or Joseph Garber's guilty pleasure Vertical Run. Casting such roles becomes a generational litmus test: whether you lean toward classics like Humphrey Bogart or their modern incarnations like Bruce Willis, you can easily envision your favorite grizzled straight-man walking the dark alleys of Dolan's twisting plot.

Three stars for philistine fun, with two saved in the cylinder -- "in case things get dicey, or a dame offers to buy me a drink" :-)
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