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From the acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of The Intruders and The Straw Men comes a nerve-shattering story of guilt, rage, deadly secrets, and very, very . . . bad things
Three years ago, lawyer John Henderson watched his four-year-old son tumble from a jetty into the lake outside their Washington home. In a terrible instant, a life all too brief and innocent ended. But it wasn't drowning, the fall, or even some previously undetected internal defect that killed the little boy. Scott Henderson had simply, inexplicably . . . died.
Today, John is a different man—divorced, living a solitary existence in a beach house in Oregon, working as a waiter in a restaurant that caters to the summer crowd. Withdrawn from a life and past too painful to revisit, he touches no one and no one touches him. Then one night he receives a short and profoundly disturbing e-mail message from a stranger. It reads: I know what happened.
It's enough to pull John back to Black Ridge—the one place on earth he'd hoped never to return to—in search of answers to the mystery that shattered his world. In this small, isolated Pacific Northwest community, populated in large part by descendants of the original settlers, the shadows now seem even darker and more sinister than when tragedy first drove him away—and the wind whipping down out of the primal forest can chill a man to his soul. It seems that bad things have always happened in this town of generations-old secrets—and are happening still.
The deeper John digs into his own past, and into local history, the more danger he draws toward himself . . . and toward his estranged and helpless family. And though he doesn't know it, he's not the only one who's been called back to Black Ridge.
And that's a very bad thing . . .
A twisting, relentlessly thrilling, and consistently surprising novel of psychological suspense, Michael Marshall's Bad Things is a masterwork of chilling brilliance that will keep the reader guessing right to the final page. Bad things don't just happen to other people. They're waiting to happen to you, too.
- thrilling horror tale
After falling into a lake in Black Ridge, Washington, four years old Scott Henderson dies though he was rescued in time; no cause for the child's death is found. His despondent parents John and Carol are unable to cope or help one another with their grief. They divorce and both leave the town with neither planning to ever return.
Three years later, John receives a cryptic frightening note from someone claiming they know how Scott died. Though he thinks the woman who sent it is probably a nutcase, John goes back to Black Ridge hoping otherwise as he has not obtained closure. He is unaware that his return to the scene of his greatest personal tragedy will cause inexplicable deadly incidents to occur.
This is a thrilling horror tale that uses the setting of a seemingly placid rustic town to enhance the tension of what is going on. Readers will feel a sense of impending doom throughout the exciting story line. Although some plausibility is lacking, no one will care as Michael Marshall provides a strong scary tale with a psychological edge to make what is happening in Black Ridge even more frightening.
- Bad Things in store for readers of this disappointing effort by Marshall.
Michael Marshall has been one of the most respected authors of fantastical fiction and thrillers to emerge over the last ten years. Writing as Michael Marshall Smith, his first three novels became instant sci-fi/fantasy cult classics --- ONLY FORWARD, ONE OF US and SPARES (the latter two titles being optioned for film versions). After this, he shortened his moniker to the currently used Michael Marshall and proceeded to write an enthralling and unnerving trilogy about a secret and all-powerful group that has been responsible for every tragic event in human history --- The Straw Men Trilogy --- consisting of THE STRAW MEN, THE LONELY DEAD and BLOOD OF ANGELS. Last year he wrote a terrific thriller titled THE INTRUDERS which was a Top 10 Best-seller in the U.K.
Having read all of these classic and near-classic novels, I approached his latest novel BAD THINGS with extremely high expectations. Alas, all literary greats have their clinkers and works they are less proud of --- I can only hope that BAD THINGS is Marshall's one bump in the road because this effort was lacking in everything that made his previous work so memorable.
The novel starts off with a bang --- John and Carol Henderson's young son, Scott, takes a walk out onto the jetty behind their house that overlooks a dark lake in Black Ridge, Washington. Scott disappears from sight and is never seen or heard from again --- he simply vanished without a trace. The horrifying start is the high point of the novel and the succeeding story does not come near it. The story jumps ahead in time three years as we find that John and Carol Henderson, like many couples dealing with the traumatic loss of a young child, have split up. John is now living in Oregon and working a mindless job as a waiter for a friend's restaurant. One night, he comes home to a mysterious email that reads - `I know what happened'. Startled by this, John tracks down the sender of the email --- a frightened woman named Ellen --- who tells him abruptly by phone that she knows what happened to his son but cannot speak any further as she fears she's being watched.
This propels John to return to Black Ridge, check into a local hotel, and meet with this woman Ellen to figure out the puzzle she has presented with her cryptic messages. It as at this point where the novel quickly runs out of steam as myriads of characters and strange situations are presented with little or no explanation as to their place in the plot.
What could have been a superior eerie tale about a town in the grips of a supernatural power that makes them all behave oddly --- reminiscent of Thomas Tryon's HARVEST HOME --- merely becomes a jumbled mess that you will just keep reading in hope that the payoff is worth your valuable time.
Unfortunately, the payoff is a thinly constructed back-story of Black Ridge's Robertson family who seem to be either witches themselves or in league with the bewitching entity that is responsible for all the `bad things' that have happened in the town's history. I truly wished that Marshall would have spent more time developing the central characters and structuring a stronger back-story for the Robertson's and Black Ridge's morbid history --- but it never comes. BAD THINGS is a quick read and clearly is written by a fine writer. Here's hoping for Better Things with his next effort.
- Fun page-turner, if you just go with the flow
Brief summary, no spoilers:
Our main protagonist (and sometime narrator) is John Henderson. The book starts out with the mysterious death of his young son, Scott. We know that John's marriage to Carol ended after Scott's death, and that she moved away with their infant son, Tyler.
Three years later John is working as a waiter at a small, seasonal restaurant on the Oregon coast - no longer working as an attorney. He gets an email from a woman claiming to know something about Scott's death, and John goes back to find her, and at last to resolve what happened.
The book has an interesting structure with various narrators, including Carol, and a strange young woman named Kristina. We often see events from their point of view - but just bits and pieces, since the denouement contains several twists.
I thought this was a quick, fun read. This author sure knows how to write a page-turner, although I'm not sure the plot bears close scrutiny. The story is pretty full of holes in terms of characters acting inconsistently, or where logic falls by the wayside. (And I'm not referring to the horror aspects.)
Still, I had a lot of fun reading this, and just went along for the ride. 4 stars just for being so entertaining....more info
- Wonderfully creepy...
I had read Marshall's STRAW MAN trilogy of books and loved them. They were totally engrossing and deeply disturbing. Knowing this, I expected the same with BAD THINGS and was not disappointed.
Marshall is a master at keeping everything just below the surface. Even the most mundane moments leave you with the feeling that there is something evil and sinister lurking behind. BAD THINGS incorporates the same creepiness that his other books have, and leaves you wondering just what the next page will bring. You always know that something weird and eerie awaits you.
I did find the ending to be somewhat lacking. However the rest of the book is so strong that it didn't bother me. A five star recommendation....more info
- Well done
Michael Marshall has created a formidable story that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Even the innocent rustling of leaves makes your scalp crawl. I cannot read this book at night when I'm alone--it's just too creepy. But creepy in an excellent way.
When two people have died mysteriously -- a little boy and a sixtyish man--no one seems concerned about investigating. But three years after his son dies, John Henderson is drawn back to that horrible place and back into the nightmare. Will the woman who says she "knows what happened to his child" be able to lead him to the truth? Or will she, too, die before the that truth is exposed?
Something wicked lurks in North West Washington State. This book is a must read for those who like their thrillers with a touch of ghoul.
Definitely recommended read.
Diane Davis White
Author, Moon of the Falling Leaves
- A Decent Thriller
Michael Marshall's "Bad Things" combines mystery, suspense, and the supernatural resulting in an entertaining and quick read. This novel tells the story of John Henderson--a former military man and very successful lawyer (or at least a rich one)--as he looks back on the death of his young son 3 years in the past. Henderson is separated from his wife (and young remaining child) and working as a waiter in Oregon when he receives a mysterious phone call from a woman claiming to know details of his son's mysterious death.
Although there is a minor story line involving characters from his present Oregon life, the primary focus is on solving the mystery of young Scott Henderson's death. The story moves quickly as the Henderson's life together and the lives of the quirky characters in smalltown Washington (Black Ridge, WA) are revealed. The story is primarily told in John Henderson's first person voice, but Marshall occasionally and annoyingly presents a chapter in the third person voice of one of the other characters in the novel (and not always the same one). It's a suspenseful tale and this technique tended to break the suspense more than build it.
Similarities to Stephen King in terms of subject matter are apt and Marshall does a nice job of revealing things to the reader as the mystery and its solution unfold. A good read, but not great....more info
Michael Marshall can write - that's for sure - but he uses so many different styles in this novel that it becomes a difficult read. The premise is very promising and the aurthor does the rare thing of grabbing the reader from page one. The intro is mezmerizing. It continues on strong as characters are established years later and we see how they are dealing with the tragedy that intoduced the book. I was on the edge of my seat for the first 50 or so pages and was prepared for an exciting, suspenseful spooky read.
Sadly, after the first 50 pages the book went all over ther place. It went from character to character, was told from different perspectives and it was often hard to even know who you were reading about. The plot that had such a solid beginning also went a little haywire. The story starts with a family and the mysterious death of the son. As the novel plods along it looses track. Different plot lines are meshed together and plausibility is somewhat lost as the story becomes hard to follow.
The book is one you will want to finish for through all this it is apparent that the writer is talented and the reader will want to see where he is leading things. I skimmed through some of this book as I pushed to make it to the end. I just feel a big let down for so much could have been done with this plot. The author is talented but this is not one of his best. Suspenseful at times it just doesn't really work....more info
- Bad Things is a Good Thing for Vacation Reading
Michael Marshall, author of The Intruders and The Straw Men has produced a solid vacation read. This is the kind of book that doesn't require a lot of concentration, but provides a fast-moving and exciting plot. One warning: the prologue is easily the most pompus, adjective-filled writing I have run across in years. Don't let that stop you. The rest of the book is a really good read.
The story is about a John Henderson, who after his son's mysterious death, ends his law practice and becomes a waiter in a restaurant on the Oregon coast. A mysterious email pulls John out of his new life and back to the town where he lost his son. That email draws him into a darkening plot where each new revelation brings more trouble.
Without revealing more of the plot, let's just say that things move very quickly and this book kept me up past my bedtime so that I could find out what happens next. This isn't great literature, but it makes a fun read on the beach or in a plane on the way to vacation....more info
Michael Marshall Smith's latest is another great horrific thriller! Although it has been said before about numerous undeserving authors, Michael Marshall is truly the only living heir to Stephen King. BAD THINGS is chilling, suspenseful, and chock full of unpleasant revelations about our world and the darkness mired in every human soul. A masterpiece!Bad Things: A Novel
- Not Stephen King
And certainly not Alfred Hitchcock, but I would compare the author to M Night Shyamalan (although not near as good as The Sixth Sense).
The story starts out when the main character John, his wife, his 3yr old son Scott and their new baby are just hanging out in their million dollar home near Seattle WA. John and his wife suddenly realize they can't find Scott. They run outside calling him when they discover he is standing on the jetty by the lake. They continue to call him but he doesn't respond. Finally Scott looks at John while pointing to the woods and telling him to run. John continues to run toward Scott when suddenly Scott just falls into the lake. He's a strong swimmer but when they pull him out he is dead. The doctor told them he did not drown, he just died.
Then we flash forward 3 years. John is living in a small town in Oregon. He works as a waiter & sometime pizza cook in a small bar. He lives alone in a small house and does not own a car. He is friends with his boss and his daughter and also has occasion to work with her looser boyfriend.
One night John comes home from work and checks his e-mail when there's something he thinks is probably spam but looks at it anyway. It simply says "I know what happened". He blew it off as spam, but he checks his e-mail the next night. Soon he receives a call from a woman who tells him she knows what happened to his son and that she herself is in fear for her life. But then she hangs up. He tries to call her back and all she tells him is her e-mail and phone calls are monitored.
So he packs up and flies to Seattle for an over-night trip to find this woman. He finally does find her but she is still mysterious and cannot spend more than a few minutes talking to him.
Throughout the book you are introduced to several characters in the town and learn more about the mysterious woman.
In the meantime, his boss' daughter calls him because she and her boyfriend are in trouble.
So his overnight trip keeps being extended as he tries to unravel the mystery of this woman, all the while trying to get information from her about his son, all the while trying to bail the boyfriend out of his problems with drug dealers.
This is an easy book to read and is pretty interesting, but if you're looking for a Stephen King edge of your seat thriller, you will need to skip this book.
And unlike Alfred Hitchcock, this story does not leave you hanging. Michael Marshall gives you a good ending.
- Hard to put down this dark and suspenseful novel
*Bad Things* by Michael Marshall reminds me of Stephen King in that it is a "supernatural" thriller based on human dysfunction. The book was suspenseful and held my attention until the end. Others have pointed out that there is the primary story about the happenings in Black Ridge and a sub-story having to do with people from Oregon where John Henderson moved after the death of his son and the breakup of his marriage. None of these people have pristine lives; in fact, some are heading to the next life pretty quickly, their demons vividly lurking for all to see. However, John Henderson is doing as well as can be expected when he receives an e-mail which will change his life again.
While it's obvious Michael Marshall is a talented author and this dark, suspenseful book is entertaining (and I do recommend it), I was left hanging at the end. It is hard to say much about it without giving away some of the suspense, but was there a resolution to the town's darkness, its ghoulishness, etc. once the perpetrators were discovered? Nothing much changed for the primary characters of course since the damage had been done. And certainly it was clear what would happen to one of the characters from the Oregon restaurant, the druggie. But what about the townspeople and the police? And how was the darkness perpetrated in the first place -- anyone can have a cabinet full of drawers filled with "spells" but do they only work against those who have dark souls--those who have done "bad" things? Oh well, too many questions as I do recommend *Bad Things* and the book did keep me on the edge of my seat. If you like Stephen King, then you will undoubtedly enjoy this book. Four stars and a promise to read Mr. Marshall's past books which have done quite well.
- Spooky thriller that is perfect for Stephen King fans
John and Carole Henderson live separate lives as they attempt to move on following the drowning death of their young son Scott. Carole tries to give a sense of normalcy to their surviving child Tyler, while the once successful John is now a recovering alcoholic spinning his wheels working at a local Italian restaurant. When John receives an anonymous email suggesting that Scott's death was not an accident, John returns to the small town where his son died in an attempt to find the truth.
John's efforts are thwarted by local law enforcement and members of a tightly knit community who do not want their dirty laundry to be aired. John realizes that his former neighbors are hiding something, but as an outsider he has no way of knowing that he is dealing with supernatural forces outside of his power to control.
Mark Marshall's novel begs comparison to the best works of Stephen King, in that the story relies on other-worldly powers yet is genuinely scary in places and not the least bit cheesy. The dark tone of the book reminds me of Gillian Flynn's "Sharp Objects," but the descriptions of John's struggles and mourning are worthy of literary fiction - Marshall's book works because his characters and locations are so believable. "Bad Things" is a welcome change of pace from mindless horror/suspense novels....more info
- Very satisfying read, although the ending was a bit of a letdown
The book intertwines multiple stories as a kind of mystery story. It yields pieces of information bit by bit, which builds the suspense and adds to the spookiness. It switches between a self-narration for the main character and an unnamed narrator for another, which is an interesting technique and gives the feel of two poles being pulled together.
The pace starts slow and kind of lazy, but builds to a fever pitch by the end, making it really hard to put down. The new information information is added in a satisfying way, so that you do not feel manipulated by the author, as is common in books of this form. It makes it fun trying to figure out what is going on and who is good vs. bad. You are usually learning things as the main character is, although he also is hiding some big secrets from us.
The book has a creepiness and Stephen King kind of vibe, although more creepy than violent/gross, so should be available to more readers. On the other hand, it starts with a child dying; although there is no violence involved, that concept may be too much for some.
I found the end a letdown, but that may be inevitable. Between human malice/menace and "magic", there may be no way to really end these that does not end up being a letdown. But, at least it yields answers, not just leaving you hanging (so to speak). The author has made it so another book can be written continuing the "adventures" of the main character....more info
- Entertaining reading if you like thrillers
I must confess that I am a Stephen King fan and the fact that Michael Marshal was compared to that author was the main reason I chose this book. Surprisingly, I probably liked this book better than King's recent rather verbose writings. I did not have to wade through numerous nostalgic memories and basically had just a simple story that slowly builds to a page turner.
It is very hard to describe thriller stories without giving away too much of the mystery. I can reveal that you do not sense it is a mystery until you are about half way through the novel. This is not a bad thing. Mr. Marshal has enough minor characters and sub stories to keep you interested until you discover the "real" plot....more info
- A Cut Above
I seem to be getting my hands on a lot of what people might consider "vacation reads" lately. Fast moving books that don't pretend to be literary fiction, that deliver an engaging story that's fun to come back to. Or at least, that's what the authors appear to aspire to deliver.
Happily, in the case of Michael Marshall's new novel, "Bad Things", that's pretty much what you get.
I won't bother doing an in-depth analysis of the plot; it's covered in the publisher's description as well as in other reviews. Rather, I'll say that Marshall's writing skills are a cut above most other authors' in this genre, and I was quite pleasantly surprised (as I was with another book I reviewed recently, Gillian Flynn's new book Dark Places: A Novel).
The protagonist, John Henderson, is likable and, for the most part, behaves believably. He may be a bit TOO adept in certain situations (which I'll keep out of this review to avoid spoilers), but for the most part I was more than willing to go along for the ride.
Where Bad Things falls down for me is in the somewhat common theme of "what evil secrets (or is it a secret evil?) lurk beneath the surface of this town, and who's in on it?" I wish we could have gone elsewhere with the story, as this subject matter has been mined to death by innumerable authors.
However, Marshall's skill as a writer, his well-drawn characters and scenes, and the flashes of originality that are found throughout the book were enough to elevate it to a four-star read in my eyes.
If you're looking for a fun, creepy read to take on your vacation this summer (even if your vacation can only be a lawn chair in the back yard) I'd recommend "Bad Things" as an excellent choice, a cut above the VAST majority of books you'll find in the genre....more info