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Bad Things by Michael Marshall
Review by Steve Sawicki
Harper Mass Market Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780061434419
Date: 01 December 2010 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

John Henderson has experienced a horrible thing--the death of his son. It nearly destroyed him. It did destroy his life. He's working as a waiter in a run down restaurant and living the life of a wanderer. He has few expectations and no plans for the future. Until the night he gets an email from a stranger that says "I know what happened." He ignores it but it eats at him and he eventually manages to connect the email to a phone number which is answered by a woman who is cryptic if nothing else. Instead of letting it go, Henderson puts in for a couple days off and heads back to Black Ridge, Washington--the very place where his son died and where he nearly destroyed himself afterward.

At first there appears to be nothing but dead ends in what he now considers a kind of strange small town. The people seem oddly disconnected, from him and each other. As Henderson digs for answers he finds only more questions. He meets the woman who called but she seems on the edge of sanity. He learns more about her but none of it seems to fit. As he probes more strange things occur and he finds himself getting sucked in to a situation that he never imagined and one that is going to be filled with horror and destruction.

Michael Marshall has a very understated writing style that is brushed with insightful nuance. His characters seem to be real people struggling with life, making mistakes and then repeating. Henderson, is not just the protagonist but the reporter, making statements about life, about people, about behaviors, that apply far beyond the situation at hand. This is done so well as to be seamless and it lends a richness to the text that is sometimes simply beautiful.

Marshall also holds back, letting the reader learn along with Henderson and typically only learning a few things rather than getting it all in one dose. This means that the reader is often left to fill in the blanks or just be frustrated along with the protagonist at the inability of all the pieces to fit neatly together.

This is a very well written book. While it is, essentially a horror thriller, and while there is some blood and gore, it is mostly a book about the horror that we bring along with our behaviors. It is about, as the title informs, bad things, and the resonance those bad things will carry forward through a life. I found myself thoroughly enjoying this novel and doing so on a number of different levels. I enjoyed the story but also enjoyed the crafting of it. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a good read. Great writing and great reading.

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