Book Review: Bad Things – Michael Marshall

Bad Things

I finished Bad Things yesterday morning, after several hours of intense reading interrupted only by occasional trips to replenish my omnipresent mug of coffee and ignore my responsibilities. It was, in a word, excellent. Well written, wonderfully engaging, and equipped with a driving plot and varied, believable characters, this is a book that deserves to be appreciated.

Bad Things is the story of a man named John Henderson. Three years earlier, his son, Scott, died under seriously mysterious circumstances. Now, three years later, he receives a few odd emails suggesting knowledge of those circumstances. Drawn back to the scene and away from the life he had scraped together, John is drawn also into a seething web of secrets and lies that threatens to destroy everything he has left.

Bad Things is structured like a crime novel: ‘bad thing’ happens, main character reacts, and a series of events occur during which the explanation for that ‘bad thing’ comes to light and is more or less resolved. However. The first pivotal event on which the story is hinged is not, at first glance, a clear-cut obvious murder, the main character is not an aged Detective with a fondness for cigars and complaining about bad coffee, and John Henderson spends more time clashing with the law than he does helping it.

Plot:

Bad Things might be a psychological thriller with an emphasis on the weird and not-so-wonderful, but its grounded in the very real grief a father feels for his deceased son, and, in particular, in what it is like to move on from that, to continue living. This book depicts grief, and the effect not only on the individual, but also on the people around that individual, on their lives as a whole, both well and sympathetically, giving voice to an experience that often defies description, all structured in a particularly unique form of the bog-standard crime drama.

Characters:

I liked John Henderson – enough to read an entire book from his perspective without once tiring of it – but Becki is easily my favourite. She’s strong, clever, and self-assured, but she’s not the emotionless one-dimensional character that such women often turn into within crime dramas. She’s layered and interesting, ultimately, impressively strong, and triumphing over adversity, but also, at times, overwhelmed by circumstances beyond her control and her ability to cope. She is, ultimately, a realistic, believable character of considerable complexity, and a joy to read about.

General Comments:

Bad Things is, honestly, a very accomplished book. Marshall’s writing style is not only engaging, but also entertaining and clever, successfully breathing life into a narrative of heartache, grief and the secrets that tear families apart. The plot, too, is self-assured, the crime drama with a thoroughly unique twist to it, and the characters are all well rounded and thoroughly defined, whether they provide the central perspective or not.

This book is definitely worth a read.

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