Here's my review for the Chicago Tribune, which ran last weekend:
BAD THINGS HAPPEN, by Harry Dolan
Before I read this brilliant first novel set in Ann Arbor, Mich., the only things I knew about the city's publishing and writing scene were the University of Michigan's fine output and the fact that W.H. Auden lived and taught there after being dumped by a nasty boyfriend.
What I didn't know about Ann Arbor is how active the crime fiction scene is. In "Bad Things Happen," Harry Dolan, who lives there, conjures up a setting where the bodies fall like cordwood. He gives us a writer named David Loogan, who writes for and helps edit a mystery magazine called Gray Streets.
Loogan's violent past makes him a suspect when the magazine's founder and editor is murdered -- and then some of the area's leading crime writers also begin to die.
"The man who called himself David Loogan had been living in Ann Arbor since March," Dolan tells us in his understated prose style tinged with fear and paranoia.
"He rented a small furnished house on the west side: a sharp-roofed wood-frame place with a porch in the front and a little yard in back wound about with a chain-link fence. ... He was not out of place in a university crowd: he might have passed for an older graduate student, or a young professor. He was thirty-eight."
After writing and rewriting a story for Gray Streets several times (Each version is slipped into the magazine's offices late at night to avoid contact), Loogan finds that the editor, Tom Kristoll, has hung around after hours to catch him.
"Loogan took a few tentative steps. 'I can't stay,' he said. 'Why not?' " asks Kristoll. "There was no answer for that. The answer that had occurred to him -- because it's going to be dark soon -- would sound ridiculous."
It turns out that Kristoll, a man whose voice had "an oddly formal quality, the voice of an actor running lines," wants Loogan to work for him as a copy editor.
After much soul-searching and the promise that he can work from home, Loogan takes the job. Then he meets Kristoll's wife, Laura, and his troubles really begin.
"Laura Kristoll wore a silk blouse and capri pants. She was sleek and blonde." Loogan and Laura Kristoll begin a hot, virtually inevitable affair.
The dying starts when Tom Kristoll asks for Loogan's help in burying a body -- an intruder, he says, who broke into the house and was killed by a blow from a Scotch bottle.
Then Tom Kristoll himself winds up dead, either jumping or being tossed from a window in his office.
We meet another very interesting character: Elizabeth Waishkey, a shrewd cop whose prime suspect, at first, is Loogan -- especially after the body of the buried man is dug up.
I could go on for pages about the amazing amount of trust that Dolan generates from Page 1, letting us know that he won't make a false move. But I don't want to spoil your pleasure.