As mentioned in my previous First Impression Friday post, They Did Bad Things is June’s book for the Fantastic Stranglings Book Club, run by Jenny Lawson at The Bloggess. (She’s opening a bookstore in San Antonio called Nowhere Bookshop, and it’s on my bucket list to visit at least once in my life!)
I always try to stay away from articles or reviews of the books that I receive for the book club, and this month’s was no exception. The only things I knew about the book was what I read on the cover: that is was in a similar vein of And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie.
And when I started the book, I could immediately see the similarities. Granted, it’s been almost 12 years since I last read And Then There Were None, but the parallels were obvious. However, in this story, a man named Collum died years ago, and a mysterious benefactor has invited five people who were absolutely involved in that murder (in one way or another – nobody knows whose hand ultimately killed Collum) to a house for a mysterious vacation, each person thinking they’re there under different pretenses. One believes she’s won an Avon vacation, one man believes it’s a rehab facility, and so on.
What I enjoyed about They Did Bad Things is that there are diary pages inserted throughout the book, telling the story of the murderer and how they have lured these five people to their house and possibly to their deaths (just kidding – it’s absolutely to their deaths). It’s interesting to read the diary pages in conjunction with the flashbacks to the college apartment, trying to piece together which one of these people are the murderer (and, as people start dying off, the pool of possible killers only appears to be getting smaller).
I believe my main issue with They Did Bad Things stems from how short it is. I mean, I know And Then There Were None was incredibly short, and They Did Bad Things is 270ish pages, but everything seemed to happen so fast. Granted, the entire book takes place over the time frame of a single night and day, but I struggled to feel connected with the characters because they were taken away so fast.
The ending of the book left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth, too. I won’t go into too many details, but we’ll just say that the murderer spends the dying moments of their last victim monologuing about how amazing their plan was and how they can’t believe that every single person missed that it was them. It’s like the author tried to wrap it up too neatly. And then, in an epilogue, they bring in the daughter of one of the victims who, after reading the diary and seeing other evidence, decides that she’s going to hunt the murderer down. That makes it seem like they’re leaving the book open for a sequel, but how could there truly be a sequel? I’m interested in seeing how that goes.
All in all, it was a good read. I was a little frustrated with the ending, but not so much that I felt like throwing the book against the wall. I give They Did Bad Things a solid 4/5 stars, because while the story was too short in some ways and too off-the-wall in others, the underlying story was pretty solid and I enjoyed what I read.
Have you read They Did Bad Things? What was your impression? Do you think it deserved the comparison it has to And Then There Were None? Let me know in the comments!
And as always, keep reading.