“So you know what he did to the guh-good thing he found? He did bad things.“
★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★ By Dathan Auerbach
As readers of The Scariest Things know, I am a huge Dathan Auerbach fan and his self-published novel Penpal is one of my favorite books. (If you are new to the website, you can read my Penpal review here.). So when I got a copy of his new novel Bad Man, which was published by Doubleday this summer, I didn’t read it immediately because I was afraid it would suck. I mean its long, coming in at 400 pages, and it’s not self-published so maybe “the man” was going to stifle his creativity but luckily for me (and you!) that was not the case.
Bad Man is the story of Ben, whose younger brother Eric disappeared from a Florida grocery store bathroom when Ben looked away for a second. Five years later and desperate for a job, Ben finds himself working at the same grocery store where he lost Eric. While the police seem to have moved on and his stepmother (Eric’s mother) can’t even leave the house, Ben has never stopped looking for Eric continuing to put up flyers and canvas the neighborhood. His coworkers and family can’t understand how Ben could be working at the very place Eric vanished from, but Ben seems to think that the store may hold the answers to what happened to Eric, but that it may actively be trying to hide that truth from him.
After drawing you into the story with an emotional first chapter, Bad Man takes a while to get going full steam and doesn’t take any short cuts on its way to an ending that you’ll either love or hate, but that you won’t see coming (and may need to re-read a few times to “get it” as I did). Like Penpal, Bad Man is creepy, atmospheric and emotional horror not gory or visceral; both stories have missing children at their core- every parent’s worst nightmare. Also like Penpal, the strength of Bad Man is how Auerbach portrays his characters, especially Ben and his good friend Marty, because you will really care about them and want to stick with the story no matter how many back roads it goes down. Read this under the hum of florescent lights…and keep them on because Bad Man gets dark but like Ben, you won’t be able to stop looking.