Saturday, August 1, 2009

"Bad Things" by Michael Marshall

Before I thoroughly trash this terrible novel, please don't let that dissuade you from picking up Michael Marshall's "Straw Men" trilogy - "The Straw Men", "The Lonely Dead" (aka "The Upright Man") and "Blood Of Angels". It's a terrific trio of novels - well, the second one is a bit all over the place - packed with action, genuine creepiness and thrills. So it's a pity that he's never matched those books since. "The Intruders" was okay, but the book cover itself tried to sell it as a crime novel, when it was actually more a supernatural/sci-fi story. I'm a big fan of most genre writing - crime, horror, sci-fi - so I don't understand why the publishers couldn't simply be upfront about their product.

It happens again with "Bad Things", which the book cover describes this time as a psychological thriller. Yeah, right. It's another supernatural story. I say "story" because there's absolutely nothing thrilling about it. Marshall can't even be bothered to fully explain what exactly is going on. It's basically 300 pages of metaphysical rambling with some attempt to tie it all up at the end. Not one of the more exciting books I've come across.

The plot has John Henderson returning to the town of Black Ridge some time after the death of his son, Scott, who died under very mysterious circumstances. Despite having another son, John headed off into a life of feeling sorry for himself, leaving said son and wife behind, which didn't make me like him a whole lot. Anyway, John returns to Black Ridge after receiving an e-mail from a woman who says she knows the mystery behind Scott's death. The woman is Ellen Robertson, and she appears to have more than a few screws loose, never actually revealing much about what she knows at all. Nevertheless, John hangs around in town and notices that many of the residents behave very strangely indeed. Amongst endless internal monologues, John finds the time to help out Becki, the daughter of a friend, who is having trouble with her drug-dealing boyfriend, Kyle. A deal gone bad has resulted in some thugs on their tails. And what does this have to do with the main plot? Nothing! I would give an example of just how ridiculously rambling the narrative is, but I don't want to get penalised for breaching copyright over a piece of junk like this. Just take my word for it.

So what are the bad things? I'm not sure even the author knows. In the end (SPOILERS), it appears all the strangeness is a result of the townsfolk being indebted to Brooke Robertson - Ellen's stepdaughter - who acts as a broker for a witch. But since the witch (as far as I can tell) is the owner of the town's motel, I'm not entirely sure why people who want spells done just couldn't go straight to her. This is a stupid book where nothing much really happens, and what does happen is never adequately explained. The only "Bad Thing" around here is the time you'll waste reading it.

1 comment:

  1. The Straw Men was brilliant, what a shame he's now churning out crap. I often wonder, after I've spent 30 bucks on yet another piece of crap by a favourite author (I hope you're reading this Jonathon Kellerman) how much pressure best-selling authors are under to bang out books. Do the publishers employ editors specifically to pander to bestselling writers or are they simply too gutless to send rejection slips?