Bad Things by Nancy Bush (Crime/Suspense Novel, July 2019).

Veteran suspense writer Nancy Bush focuses her latest novel on a group of longtime friends with way too many secrets–most dating from their high school days. Ugly, even deadly secrets that even back then had cost one girl her life. Now they’re all around 30 and the title Bad Things they have worked hard to bury are about to come roaring back into their lives. For all of them, the results are going to be painful. While some will experience at least some degree of catharsis from revealing the truth, others will find the lives destroyed–including several facing literally fatal consequences.

Nick is the small town boy who left Edwards Bay and made a fortune in Silicon Valley. He was perhaps the best of his high school clique. Everybody loved him, it seems, yet while a basically good guy he wasn’t quite the saintly figure others make him out to be. Now he’s moved back home to try and put things right. But the prospect of him opening old wounds doesn’t sit well with other former members of the self-described A-Team of football players (and the equally cliquish band of their fathers, who still live vicariously over their sons’ past activities, on the field and, most ominously, in the bedroom).

Before he can work up the courage to reveal all, he dies suddenly and in grotesquely suspicious circumstances. It becomes the duty of two people who weren’t actual parts of his school group, his stepsister Kerry and her ex-boyfriend Cole, who has recently become the local Police Chief, to uncover just how and why he died.

This group of relatively young adults have highly varied, but pretty universally messed up lives. The author is too subtle to outright state that most of the problems probably stem from the abusive actions and corrosive secret-keeping in their past. But the unexpressed guilt and unacknowledged horrors of their school days will, inevitably be seen as root causes for what follows.

And what follows is a lot of building tension within the group, backbiting among its members and, finally, more violence. One after another of those involved turns up dead, leading to a final confrontation between Kerry and the deranged killer. I won’t spoil things by even hinting at that one’s identity, but will say it makes some psychological sense in the context of the book.

The novel is somewhat suspenseful, but I confess that the many characters here made it difficult for me to get a feel for any of them as individuals. The painfully hesitant rekindling of Kerry and Cole’s former romance, along with the inability of anyone to move on asks an annoying question: Why haven’t anyone here, even those not in any way involved in the brutal A-Team misadventures, been able to mature?

This is a capably written book, as one would expect from someone of Bush’s experience and skill. I mostly like it. I just can’t quite bring myself to love it.


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