Very Bad Men Review
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Mystery magazine editor David Loogan is used to reading about all kinds of crime—but his latest story submission is different. The manuscript opens with a confession: “I killed Henry Kormoran in his apartment on Linden Street.” The story goes on to tie the author to the murder that Loogan’s girlfriend, Detective Elizabeth Waishkey, is currently investigating—and it ends by naming his next victim.

The killer, Anthony Lark, has a list of names. The first was Terry Dawtrey, a prison inmate in Sault Ste. Marie, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The second was Kormoran. Sutton Bell is next. The three men were accomplices in a bank robbery 17 years ago—and though they’ve paid for their crime, Lark is obviously convinced that it’s not enough.

The case takes Loogan and Elizabeth on a state-wide adventure as they search for clues that can explain who would want these men dead—and why.

Weighing it at more than 400 small-print pages, Very Bad Men isn’t a quick read, but it’s definitely an engrossing read. Readers follow the resourceful editor and his detective girlfriend on an urgent investigation that leads them in all directions. Along the way, they visit quaint small towns and attend fundraising events for a young politician who finds herself at the center of the case—though she’d much rather keep her connection to the crime under wraps.

At first, the story may seem pretty straightforward. After all, readers meet the killer in the second chapter, and, for some reason, he willingly (though anonymously) confesses his crimes. But there’s more to the case than meets the eye—and Dolan throws in plenty of twists and turns to keep readers guessing. Unfortunately, the story gets a bit lost in the end. Many of the twists seem a little far-fetched—and the motives don’t feel entirely flawless—but the characters (especially savvy but struggling magazine editor Loogan) make it an engaging adventure.

Meanwhile, not only is Very Bad Men a gripping crime thriller, but it also makes a pretty good commercial for Michigan tourism. The story explores parts of the Great Lakes State that don’t typically get a lot of coverage (in other words, parts that aren’t Detroit). From the natural beauty of Northern Michigan to the vibrant life and culture of Loogan’s hometown, Ann Arbor, Dolan paints a picture that would make the Michigan tourism department proud (though, admittedly, they might be a little prouder if these locations weren’t settings for bank robberies and murders). If you’ve never been to Michigan, it’ll make you want to book your trip; if you’re a Michigan expat like I am, it’ll make you just a little bit homesick.

With its ever-twisting mystery, its likable main characters, and its unexpected settings, Very Bad Men is an enjoyable mix of clever crime thriller and whirlwind travelogue—and it’s a good choice for a literary getaway.

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