Bad Man by Dathan Auerbach

Happy first day of school! Well, for me, at least. But I figure while I’m trying not to lose my mind at work, everyone should definitely lose their minds over this thrilling horror.

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Title: Bad Man {400 pgs}

Genre: Horror/Thriller

Publication Date: August 7, 2018

Summary:

Eric disappeared when he was three years old. Ben looked away for only a second at the grocery store, but that was all it took. His brother was gone. Vanished right into the sticky air of the Florida Panhandle.

They say you’ve got only a couple days to find a missing person. Forty-eight hours to conduct searches, knock on doors, and talk to witnesses. Two days to tear the world apart if there’s any chance of putting yours back together. That’s your window.

That window closed five years ago, leaving Ben’s life in ruins. He still looks for his brother. Still searches, while his stepmother sits and waits and whispers for Eric, refusing to leave the house that Ben’s father can no longer afford. Now twenty and desperate for work, Ben takes a night stock job at the only place that will have him: the store that blinked Eric out of existence.

Ben can feel that there’s something wrong there. With the people. With his boss. With the graffitied baler that shudders and moans and beckons. There’s something wrong with the air itself. He knows he’s in the right place now. That the store has much to tell him. So he keeps searching. Keeps looking for his baby brother, while missing the most important message of all.

That he should have stopped looking.

Review:

I usually try to have these reviews out before the book hits shelves, but life got in the way {as usual}. Still, I knew that I couldn’t let this book go by without me gushing about it to anyone who is willing to listen.

Ben has spent five years of his life searching for his little brother Eric, the same little brother who disappeared from the grocery store while in Ben’s care. Ben’s life has fallen apart since then: his step-mother only leaves the house to buy Eric’s birthday gifts – which they still celebrate, every year, without fail – and his father has hidden himself away deep inside his heart. Ben decides that the best way to help out is to get a job – at the same grocery store where Eric went missing. But this grocery store is not your average grocery store. And maybe this town is not your average town. Ben understands both of these things, and yet he still pokes and prods at every dark part, hoping that one will lead him to his brother.

I’ve been on a bit of a horror kick lately {I mean, I always am, but it’s been ramped up the last month or so}, and when this book fell into my lap, I picked it up right away. Bad Man is one of those stories that makes you believe anything is possible, and not in the happy, shiny, Disney way. The story takes place mostly at the grocery store at night, since Ben works the graveyard shift, and so the tone and the atmosphere is all dark corners, shifty looks, and the feeling that the store is absolutely alive. It reminded me a lot of old Stephen King novels, where if Auerbach revealed that the store had been eating children, I’d be like, well, yeah, of course it has {honestly, I had convinced myself of this very thing for a couple of chapters}.

Auerbach does that wonderfully beautiful thing of dropping hints as you move along in the story, so deftly and quietly that while you might pick up one, it means you might miss the other dozen or so that make up the trail to the end. There are red herrings galore and dead ends pathways littered through the novel. None of these things make Bad Man frustrating or annoying; it only adds to the suspense of finding out what really happened to Eric. Along with the mystery of a boy gone missing, the reader must also decide whether or not Ben is a reliable narrator, a feat that changes the story from chapter to chapter. I had a difficult time trusting Ben, but then suddenly, he seemed like the most trustworthy person in the whole book.

I’m telling you, Bad Man is going to make you lose your mind.

Confession time: kids really scare me. Not like I’d walk into a classroom and promptly freak out. But kids can be some of the creepiest, scariest creatures out there. Sometimes they seem otherworldly, a species entirely their own, and the children that populate Bad Man are no different. All I can say is watch the children, but don’t always listen to them.

I got this ARC through NetGalley, but the moment I finished reading it, I put in a preorder for the finished thing {I also just found out that Dathan Auerbach posts creepy stories on Reddit, so excuse me while I go read his entire catalog there}. This is a book that I’m going to pick up again and again, one of those stories that will be a Halloween staple because if there’s one thing that I love during the month of October, it’s scaring the living hell out of myself. Bad Man will definitely do the trick. Plus some.

Oh yeah, don’t read this book at night. Don’t make the same mistake I did.