Bad Things by Michael Marshall (Harper Collins, 2009)-John Henderson is waiting tables at a small restaurant in the Pacific Northwest, and house sitting for a friend in the area. It’s been three years since his young son died on Lake Murdo in Black Ridge, Washington, and he’s doing his best to live life and forget, when one day he receives an email that says simply “I know what happened.” Soon, John is pulled back to Black Ridge and meets a mysterious woman who claims the same thing happened to her husband. John is skeptical, but soon, events begin to lead him in only one direction: something extremely strange is going on, and more people are going to die.
I’m a longtime fan of Michael Marshall’s. I started with his trilogy, which consists of The Straw Men, The Upright Man, and Blood of Angels, which put him on my autobuy right away. His books remind me quite a bit of John Connolly’s Charlie Parker series, in that he’s able to mix thriller with a dash of the supernatural to wonderful effect. As a parent, I can’t imagine having to go through the death of a child, and John Henderson is a man haunted by this, and becomes determined to find the real reason it happened. He’s more than just a former lawyer, and has more than a few tricks up his sleeves. He is not without resources, and in spite of his pain, is a strong and capable protagonist, who will stop at nothing to protect those he loves. Michael Marshall knows how to turn up the creep and also use his character’s surroundings to enhance the mood of the story. Wet, loamy woods surround the lake in which his son dies, and there always appears to be something at the peripheral, lingering in the shadows of the trees. The little hairs on the back of my neck stood up more than once, and I couldn’t read fast enough to find out just what was causing the death and mayhem in Black Ridge. Michael Marshall’s novels are a perfect example of the slow burn. There is action, but the pleasure in these books is the build to the climax. The endings are always satisfying, and sometimes shocking, but the journey is what you will relish, peeling back the layers of each character and soaking in the atmosphere of a town steeped in secrets. Bad Things is a standalone novel, but I urge you to check out his trilogy, and also The Intruders. Heck, you really can’t go wrong with anything by this talented writer! If you like thrillers with a supernatural twist, taut writing, and lots of atmosphere, you’ll love Bad Things!