Bad Things is the book I alluded to in my review of We Are Here – it’s the book where we first meet the character of John Henderson. So having finished We Are Here and having enjoyed it and that character in particular I thought I’d go straight back and read this. One of the nice things about the way I’m reading at the moment is that I can do this and it’ll not make too much of an impact on other plans because I’m getting through books at a reasonable rate. Also the detours are fun.
Bad Things begins with a very bad thing indeed. John’s infant son, Scott, is out playing by the lake that their home looks out over. He’s on the jetty leading out onto the water when John watches him simply collapse and fall into the lake. When John gets to him the boy is dead, but not from the fall or by drowning, he somehow just died.
It’s four years later and John is now a barman in a restaurant halfway across the country. He’s living alone, his marriage not surviving the trauma of Scott’s loss. However one day he receives an email which just says, “I know what happened.” John is drawn back to Black Ridge, where he once lived, and into a mystery concerning the town itself and what really happened on that jetty.
I enjoyed this book. Not perhaps quite as much We Are Here and that’s possibly because this is darker. It reminded me very much of Stephen King with its isolated semi-rural setting and mysterious dark powers that seem to influence ordinary people’s lives. It’s also possibly because the John Henderson of this story is more troubled, less calm and frankly more of a badass, than the one in the later book. That’s possibly because his son’s death is obviously such a huge part of his experience and it’s through the events of this book that he reaches some sort of peace about it.
The story is quite involved and I had a little difficulty keeping track of all the characters. There was a storyline involving people from the town where he was working at the restaurant, and whilst it connected up with everything else in the end, I could have happily lived without it.
The book has that sense of brooding menace of something nasty lurking in the dark that makes it a compelling, if unsettling read.
7/10 – not one for the squeamish or timid, but definitely a good read.