Very Bad Men Audio CD – Audiobook, Jul 12 2011
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"A twist-filled adventure…The characters in this engaging work are full of surprises."
“Very Bad Men is the mystery of the summer—totally top-shelf…Simply great storytelling."
“Like Dolan’s notable debut, Bad Things Happen, this [is a] cleverly plotted, hard-boiled tale."
“The rare crime novel with something for everyone who reads crime fiction.” --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
This is the follow up to Dolan's excellent "Bad Things Happen", with a core of returning characters.
David Loogan has recovered from his adventures in the previous book & is living a more settled life. He shares a home with Elizabeth, a detective & her teen daughter Sarah, who David is teaching how to drive. He's now the main editor at "Gray Streets", a crime fiction magazine & is used to receiving unsolicited manuscripts. But not like this one.
Left outside his office door, it's a story of 3 murders, 2 down & 1 to go. The details of the second murder catch his eye as the address is the same as the call Elizabeth just took about a dead body. When they look into the first one, they discover that man was also killed a few days ago. They scramble to locate the third man listed & are able to save him after he's attacked. Then the digging starts.
The three men have something in common. Seventeen years ago, they attempted a bank job in Sault Ste. Marie that went horribly wrong. A cop showed up to do his banking & before it was all over, one robber was dead, one got away, these three were caught & the cop was shot. The get away driver who escaped was never identified & the cop cop ended up in a wheelchair. His daughter is now running for senator & the whole thing is being dredged up by the press.
Into the investigation stumbles Lucy Navarro. She works for a tabloid & what she lacks in experience she makes up for with persistence. As things heat up, Lucy dogs their every step, ruffling the feathers of all involved. Although she's less than forthcoming, David takes a shine to her & is more than a little worried when she disappears.
In alternating chapters, we meet Anthony Lark, the man responsible for the growing pile of bodies.Read more ›
Do not leave me to my oppressors." -- Psalm 119:121 (NKJV)
Although Very Bad Men can certainly be enjoyed as a standalone novel, many of the nuances in the characters of Detective Elizabeth Waishkey and David Loogan won't be fully appreciated by you unless you read Bad Things Happen first. I listened to the audio recordings of the two books in the reverse order . . . and am kicking myself for doing so. This two-book series (so far) is filled with wonderful references to the detective literature that warm the hearts of those who love American-style mysteries. I thought that Erik Davies did a great job of reading Very Bad Men, and I commend that version of the novel to you.
Very Bad Men has several narrators. The dominant one in the book's earliest parts is Anthony Lark who has decided to take revenge on the perpetrators of a failed bank robbery in which one robber was killed and a sheriff was crippled for life. Lark is one of those obsessed serial killers whose perverted logic makes such mysteries chilling and fascinating to read. As you learn more about Lark, you soon appreciate that other people have different agendas that are served and threatened by Lark. Waishkey and Loogan are on separate paths to solve the murders. In this novel, Loogan is now the editor of "Gray Streets," a literary detective magazine and Waishkey is still part of the Ann Arbor, Michigan police. They also live together along with Waishkey's daughter. Needless to say, Loogan's investigations make for big problems for Waishkey. It's an interesting tension that makes the book more interesting. "Gray Streets" is right in the middle after Lark writes a note confessing a murder as part of a story that he leaves at "Gray Streets.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
An emotionally disturbed individual has targeted particular men whom he believes must die; if he has to dispatch others who are not on the list, so be it. When Elizabeth and David become familiar with the case, they discover that it is far more complex than it at first appears. "Very Bad Men" involves a seventeen-year-old bank robbery, corrupt public officials, an aspiring senatorial candidate, and an ambitious young newspaper reporter who stirs things up.
Harry Dolan has created a large cast of characters, each of whom plays a role in what will turn out to be a Greek tragedy, Michigan style. The author is good with details: how to kill someone who is locked up in prison; what it is like to live with excruciating migraine headaches; a fine description of the landscape and inhabitants of Michigan's Upper Peninsula; and the tricks that tenacious journalists use to get their stories. Although the plot is ridiculously convoluted and not particularly believable, "Very Bad Man" is entertaining enough to hold our interest. As bodies pile up and events occur that shed new light on what is happening, David and Elizabeth decide to dig deeper into the past. They suspect that the slaughter will not stop until secrets that have been hidden for many years are finally revealed.
This time around, Loogan is drawn into a seventeen-year-old mystery when a manuscript shows up outside the door of his office at Gray Streets. The manuscript is the confession of a murder, and Loogan immediately hands it over to his lover Elizabeth Waishkey of the Ann Arbor police. Of course, being Loogan, he can't resist digging into the mystery himself using his own methods--which aren't always in line with those of the police.
Dolan is good at exploring the darker side of human nature. Each of his characters seems to operate within a strict moral code, but that's not to say that each of his characters is good. Instead, I think this lends his characters a particular sort of authenticity. They are true to what they believe in--whatever it may be that they believe in. I think what draws the others to Loogan is that he accepts this knowledge about human nature and uses it as an effective means of interacting with others. This isn't to say that he's above this very human behavior. In fact, Loogan's own code blinds him, affecting his ability to see clearly what's happening before him.
I thought the mystery was well written, with a good many twists and turns. Just when you think you've got it figured out, Dolan springs another surprise on you. I also felt that the action in the book unfolds in unexpected ways. There were moments of grace that I couldn't see coming, but that felt very real when they arrived, and other moments where I felt let down by some of the characters. As I found out along with Loogan, sometimes people aren't as married to their ideals as previously believed.
The real pleasure of reading this book and the previous one is watching how Loogan interacts with the other characters. What I find refreshing about Loogan is that, while he appears on the whole to be rather moral, there is just enough of an edge to him to give the reader a jolt. When he makes threats against other characters, you know he isn't fooling around. This hints at a past that was either unsavory or dangerous or both, but Dolan is cagey with the details. I think he's very good at keeping the reader on the edge, and I suspect that he could keep this momentum with this character up for a good number of books yet to come. I know I'll keep on reading.
The mystery's solution seems to be tied to the getaway driver who fled when the robbery went sour. His identity presents a second mystery for Loogan and the police to ponder. When Navarro disappears a little more than halfway into the story, yet another layer of intrigue is added: Was Navarro kidnapped, and if so, by whom?
Lark is the novel's best character. He suffers from an affliction that imbues written words with color and causes them to move around on a page. He can handle Hemmingway's terse prose but Joseph Heller's abundant adverbs "swarm like marching ants." While unexpected traits like this bring many of Harry Dolan's characters to life, Waishkey is a typical police detective, less interesting than the novel's other players.
Dolan uses crisp, undemanding prose to construct an effective plot. We know that someone wants the truth to remain buried -- to that end, Loogan and Navarro are confronted with threats and attempted bribes -- but the puzzle surrounding the bank robbery kept me guessing to the end. Although it's not always easy to follow, the plot never becomes so convoluted as to slow the story's steady pace.
Loogan is no Sherlock Holmes. As he tries to puzzle out the solutions to the various mysteries, he's frequently wrong. That gives him a measure of credibility that is too often missing from the seemingly infallible armchair detectives who headline mystery novels. As unlikely as it might be for a mystery magazine editor to become embroiled in a mystery, Dolan concocts a believable excuse for Loogan's involvement.
This is the second David Loogan novel but the first I've read. It was strong enough to earn my recommendation and to encourage me to buy the first book.
I purchased this book for Kindle after reading the free sample. Although this is apparently one of a series, I had not read any other work by this author, and was ignorant of him.
The plot is well-constructed, all the twists are more-or-less credible, with almost no deus-ex-machina or otherwise lame constructions. (The "coincidence" of the identity of the therapist borders on the unacceptable.) Unfortunately, the plot sort of just stops - it's like a roller-coaster ride that ends with the cars sitting still on a flat spot on the tracks.
Aristotle pretty well nailed it when he said that a plot should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. This one has a most unsatisfactory "end," if you can call it that. Perhaps this is the high art of anti-climax, and I fail to appreciate it, but it turned a first-rate plot, with decent movement, into mush.
Another quirk, although not much of a problem, is the shifting between first-person narration and an omniscient third-person. It's not as jarring as it could have been, but it still makes one wonder if there was a principle of organization behind it, other than the convenience of describing what Loogan, the narrator, could not know. It doesn't help. Again, maybe it's art.
More significant is a marked lack of character development. The reader learns things about the characters, but there are no recognitions, to borrow again from The Big A. None of them seem particularly real. The border on shorthand summaries, with the exception of Anthony Lark. Lark could have been a great character - as it is, he is very good, but falls short of greatness.
A better ending would have reduced the flaws to insignificance. As it was, it was quite enjoyable up to the soggy finish. That end detracted from the previous pleasure of the read. I might read this author again, but I would hesitate to spend this sort of money to do so.
After a few days' reflection, it becomes clear that the intensity of my negative reaction was that this should have been, could have been, and almost was, a great book. That it was not, due to the flabby ending, engenders aggravation far beyond that caused by something that never had the capability of rising above potboiler slag. It's like eating a delicate confection, only to be hit by an unpleasant aftertaste. Too bad.
Loogan's digging reveals that Lark's list of names of men involved in a long-ago bank-robbery-gone-wrong is connected with a present-day senatorial candidate. Joined in his sleuthing by an investigative reporter, he finds an increasingly complex web of relationships and motivations spinning out from the old crimes. It's clear there is a conspiracy of some kind going on, but Loogan's path to solving this mystery is as full of twists, turns and tension as a mountain road in full dark.
It's a testament to Harry Dolan's writing skills that he makes a complex plot easy to follow and well-paced over its 400-plus pages. David Loogan is an enigmatic but likable protagonist, and the many other characters are all realistically and sympathetically drawn. There is a strong sense of place, as Loogan moves between Ann Arbor and towns around Sault Ste. Marie during a hot summer.
This is a follow-up to Harry Dolan's first David Loogan book, Bad Things Happen, but it easily stands on its own. If you can, though, I would recommend reading Bad Things Happen first, just because Loogan's and Elizabeth Waishkey's back stories are interesting. The first book has an implausible (but entertaining) plot that Dolan overcomes with an engaging, laconic voice and characters. Plotting here is more assured and realistic, though with that same skilled voice. Recommended.
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