Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"Very Bad Men" Make for a Very Good Read

Today, I am going to review Harry Dolan's novel Very Bad Men. A mystery novel possessing humor and heart, the suspense keeps the reader riveted - yet the most interesting aspects of the novel, rather than plot, are character. And I refrained from adding an "s" to character for a reason, for while the characters in the novel are the medium through which Mr. Dolan explores character, in general, it is the exploration itself which really intrigued me.

Here, have a book cover (& link to purchase the book, or read what some other literary geek had to say about it):

Very Bad Men (David Loogan Series #2) by Harry Dolan: Book Cover

The book opens during the Ann Arbor Art Fair, a huge event that is really more like five art fairs all going on at the same time. The A3F brings a surge of tourists to the town of Ann Arbor, which makes it both a great source of income to local businesses, as well as really freakin' annoying to the people who live in Ann Arbor. Much, if not most, of downtown is closed off for small white tents displaying either art, food, or wares to be hawked. Also, people tend to indulge in a bit of child labor and force their children to sell water on street corners and such.

I love that the book uses this/these fair(s) as the initial setting - the beginning feels very like a horror movie. And there's Michael Myers, hiding in the midst of a throng of people, causing our hero to feel trapped even as he rushes after the villain. Because when I want to feel safe, I totally run straight towards the psychotic asylum escapee wielding a knife.

So there's murder, suspense, more murder, political intrigue, and a semi-solved incident that occurred many years prior.

The most interesting thing, however, is that Dolan pulled off a mystery novel in which the reader is aware the entire time of the identity of the murderer. The question of "Who" committed the murder is of no interest - it is a fact. The question of "Why" the murders are being committed, on the other hand, and of exactly how culpable the murderer is, is fascinating, and is explored in detail.

Another great thing about this novel is that all of the characters were enjoyable. All of them were fairly intelligent, most of them were good-looking, etc.

Something which I found even more interesting than the characters, however, was the setting. I know that I've mentioned the Art Fair, with its' enforced child labor and traffic jams, both vehicular and pedestrian. Yet, this time I'm referring to the setting of the entire book. Most of this book takes place in Ann Arbor. I currently live in Ann Arbor. It's a nice place, and there is something thrilling about reading a description and thinking: "I know that place!" There is something awesome about being able to accurately gauge whether or not the author is portraying the places mentioned, correctly (he did). Nearly every place Dolan mentioned in his novel, in Ann Arbor, is an actual place that I've been to, or walked past, and so reading this novel was comforting. As a resident of Ann Arbor, I almost felt like I was a part of the novel, myself, like I could pass David Loogan walking down the street.

So I am slightly biased, because the town in which I live is the setting. And as a current Ann Arbor resident, and University of Michigan graduate, I am a bit of a snob about Ann Arbor. I think it's a great place, and would, at the least, challenge someone to a duel who dared think otherwise.

Had the book not occurred in Ann Arbor, it still would have been thoroughly enjoyable. It still would have garnered praise. But I would not have liked it, as much.

Do you have any mystery book suggestions? I'm always looking for a good mystery! Let me know in the comments below.

No comments: