In the final pages of this literary mystery novel, one of the characters declares the proceedings to be "tedious." I feel that's an apt summary of this book.

After "mysterious" loner David Loogan helps his boss - the editor of Gray Streets, a literary magazine for mystery stories - bury a body the titular "bad things" begin to happen. Bodies pile up and suspicions are cast on David and the writers who are attached to the magazine. The central conceit - that the victims and suspects are all somehow involved with murder mysteries - is probably supposed to act as some sort of meta-commentary on the genre. But it just doesn't work.

My chief issue with the book is the almost total lack of emotional engagement any of the characters demonstrate in the face of multiple homicides, threats, blackmail, and other crimes. It is implied that since the characters are all involved in mystery writing themselves, all of this is second nature to them. But I found it increasingly hard to believe that in a community like Ann Arbor, Michigan - which, in reality, has seen one murder in the last 7 years - there wouldn't have been more of a fuss being made over the 8 or so violent, grisly murders that take place. Instead, the characters just quip, chat, and speculate like it's all a big game. Apart from some bad dreams and tears at a funeral, you'd think this sort of thing just happened all the time. Without the sense of any emotional impact, it's difficult for the book to generate excitement or suspense.

Another main issue is with Loogan himself. He is supposed to be a "cipher" - a mystery man with a huge secret in his past. We are led to believe that this secret explains his ability to act as detective, to elude the police, to know how to bury a body, etc. Yet when the big secret is revealed, none of his motivations or abilities are explained by it.

JimLoter's rating:
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