The following review by Ray Walsh owner of Curious Book Shop and Archives Book Shop in East Lansing Michigan originally appeared in the Lansing State Journal.
It’s been about two years since Ann Arbor author Harry Dolan burst on the crime novel scene with his highly acclaimed debut novel “Bad Things Happen,” which introduced David Loogan, editor of “Gray Streets”, a mystery magazine.
The wait’s definitely worthwhile; Dolan’s back with a vengeance – and so is Loogan, in “Very Bad Men” (Amy Einhorn/Putnam, $25.95).
Loogan gets involved in a strange investigation when a manuscript appears outside his office door. It gets his attention right away – it confesses to a murder that just took place – giving unannounced details.
Loogan gets more concerned when the manuscript identifies the killer’s next proposed victim.
The journalist calls in his live-in girlfriend, Ann Arbor Police Detective Elizabeth Waishkey; soon the hunt is on to identify and stop the murderer.
Dolan deftly hooks the reader from the opening chapter, where he relays information about the murderer and his plans to kill Terry Dawtrey, a prison inmate in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Dawtrey’s been jailed for his involvement in a bank heist 17 years earlier; the killer, Anthony Lark, is successful, but in an unexpected way. He feels he’s justified and sets his sights on murdering the other two remaining robbers. Lark has more than a few mental problems, but feels up to the challenge, using an amazing assortment of devious methods.
Loogan and Waishkey aren’t just sitting still, they’re running all over the state trying to put together answers, getting both help and hindrance from a young journalist looking for a tabloid feature story.
The case gets considerably more challenging, involving a U.S. senator, local law enforcement officers, a paralyzed former sheriff, and the charismatic daughter of the sheriff who’s running for election as Michigan’s next senator.
The body count rises as the tension mounts; the complicated plot deals a lot with motives – and the lengths people will go to keep deadly secrets.
Dolan is exceptionally good at keeping the pacing going, using strong well-developed, colorful characters, brisk dialogue and seemingly endless plot twists. It’s easily one of the year’s best mysteries.
Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed books since 1987.