Book Review: Bad Man by Dathan Auerbach
Five years ago, Ben experienced the horror of losing his three-year-old brother in the local grocery store. One second the child was there and an instant later he is gone, leaving Ben with a guilty conscience. Now that he is grown, he has to find a job and naturally the only one available is the overnight shift at the very same store. As he becomes close with his two co-workers Marty and Frank, Ben notices strange things happening around the store. The weirdest thing of all is the appearance of a strange symbol which seems to tie into the mystery of what happened to his brother. Ben’s search takes on a new intensity as he is closer than he has ever been to answers, but the answers he finds he may not like.
The character of Ben proves to be a perfect flawed protagonist, he is no master sleuth hot on the trail, he is just a normal kid in over his head. He often follows leads that go nowhere and sometimes he discovers plot points which seem to raise more questions than answers. Thanks to an accident which permanently damaged his leg, the character also has a glaring point of vulnerability which slows him down consistently while searching for his brother. Author Dathan Auerbach, makes sure we feel his desperation during this mystery as so many possible leads turn into frustrating dead ends, and those whom Ben relies on often times turn against him.
There is a creepy authenticity in Bad Man which will keep readers turning the pages as they try to unravel this mystery. The horror elements are often kept very subtle, yet it is done to perfection to give you a feeling of dread and uneasiness throughout the story. This is owed in large part to Dathan Auerbach’s ability to pen a very realistic world for the story. Through his descriptions and well-rounded characters Auerbach truly transports readers into a South Florida small town which seems nothing but ordinary on the surface. So ordinary in fact that the people here do as we all do, and waltz right past the posters for missing people often posted at retail locations without a second glance. Using something so familiar as the jumping point for such terror is something that is always great to see in horror fiction. Bad Man is a beautifully haunting and atmospheric novel that pulls you into it’s mystery and lingers with you after it is finished.