David Loogan is a quiet man. Quiet, and a little mysterious. He's recently made his way to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he's rented the house of a professor away on sabbatical, and now he's trying to lose himself in the bustle of the college town. Loogan happens upon a job editing a literary magazine called Gray Streets, which specializes in crime stories. He becomes friends with Tom Kristoll, the publisher of the magazine. He is seduced by Tom's wife, Laura.
And one day he gets a call from Tom. "I need to see you. Bring a shovel." Now that can't be good, but David Loogan, quiet and mysterious, helps his friend dispose of the body in the library. He gets a story from his friend about who, and why, and, though it rings false, goes with it.
A short time later his friend is dead, too, seemingly a suicide. Loogan's not convinced. If this were a story in Gray Streets, he thinks to himself, I would be able to solve this mystery, to determine who pushed Tom Kristoll out the window of the magazine's office and to learn the identity of the poor sucker I helped to bury.
As David Loogan proceeds with his investigation he discovers similarities between the murders (oh, there will be more murders) and scenes from novels published by...frequent contributors to Gray Streets. As he digs deeper he learns that everybody in the Gray Streets circle has secrets they don't want their friends (and fans) to learn about. There's some ghostwriting going on. There's a giant unpublished manuscript that somebody might just kill for the opportunity to lay claim to it.
Meanwhile, Ann Arbor police detective Elizabeth Waishkey is investigating the series of murders, bumping up against David Loogan again and again. And despite indications that seem to point to his involvement in the murders, she sorta kinda likes him, even after a shocking revelation about his past comes to light.
Bad Things Happen is a fun, smart, utterly entertaining read. It's got a little bit of the nodding and winking meta thing going on (as books about books are wont to do), but it's all in good fun and not enough to become tiresome. The characters are wonderful, and I have to admit I'm more than a little in love with the mysterious Mr. Loogan.
Very Bad Men, Harry Dolan's sophomore release, which also features Loogan and Waishkey, will be released in July. It's just as good as this one.