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They Did Bad Things


They Did Bad Things

Lauren A. Forry has received much hype for her second novel, following 2017's ABIGALE HALL. I’ve seen blurbs comparing it to Knives Out, Gillian Flynn’s GONE GIRL and even Dame Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE. Of those, I would lean more toward the latter as you will soon see.

THEY DID BAD THINGS features flashback sequences and bounces between different characters. While these two elements may be overplayed set pieces for a mystery/thriller, in the right hands they can be quite effective. Forry not only handles the novel’s structure with a deft touch and the perfect dose of suspense, she also is able to interject the right amount of tongue-in-cheek bits --- just enough to keep things interesting and not cross the boundaries into satire.

"Forry does a fine job keeping the surprises coming in rapid succession, making this life-like game of Clue one that will be very hard to predict when the envelope is opened and all is revealed."

The story opens almost like a game of Clue when you uncover the items in the envelope that reveal the killer, the weapon and the location of the murder. Here we are given the evidence (Location: Wolfheather House, Isle of Doon. Remarks: a diary located immediately upon entrance to Wolfheather House, on the doormat). However, there are missing pages not yet recovered that would have accurately revealed the murderer in this fiendish game of revenge.

The Scottish Isle of Doon is an ideal setting if you are going for out-of-the-way creepiness. The mastermind of this revenge plot did not let any stone go unturned, and the location would prove to be perfect for what is planned. The history behind the meeting at Wolfheather House involved the occupants of 215 Caldwell Street, an apartment that housed six students from the local university in 1995. This also would be the place where one of them met their end under mysterious circumstances --- a situation that would force the reunion on the Isle of Doon 25 years later.

The victim in this human game of Clue is a young man named Callum, whose body was found on the depressing pink sofa the morning after a big house party. Our other players --- or, more specifically, suspects --- are Maeve Okafor, a nerdish girl trying desperately to fit in; Eleanor Hunt, your typical college blonde; Oliver Holcombe, the cool and slick boy who thought he was every girl’s dream; Lorna Torrington, a full-figured gal trying to hide her lesbian tendencies; and Hollis Drummond, probably the most clever of the group but with a dark side. One or more of these individuals are guilty of Callum’s murder, and Forry tells the rest of the story through a combination of diary pages, flashbacks and the present-day reunion. Similar to AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, the suspect list gets a bit shorter following the death of one of the participants.

As another nod to Dame Agatha, each character has been summoned to the Isle of Doon under false pretenses. Since they all know each other so well, despite the 25-year gap since university, they come to this conclusion rather quickly and decide that they need to combine their wits to figure out who is behind this game and what their intention is. Once they determine that it has something to do with Callum, they must try to discern who would want to seek vengeance for his death. Then there is the even more chilling question: Could this mysterious person be one of them?

It is difficult to describe what happens next without revealing major spoilers. You would think that the group would have an advantage since Hollis is currently a DS with the police department, but the killer is more than his match in this situation. Forry does a fine job keeping the surprises coming in rapid succession, making this life-like game of Clue one that will be very hard to predict when the envelope is opened and all is revealed.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on July 17, 2020

They Did Bad Things
by Lauren A. Forry