My thanks to Doubleday for sending free copies of Bad Man to the Night Worms to read and review.
Ben took his little brother, Eric, to the grocery store and turned his back for one minute—he never saw his brother again. Haunted by the guilt and the loss, he is still on the hunt for his brother five years later, and he ends up with a job at the same grocery store where the incident occurred.
A great set-up with interesting motivation, several suspects, ambiguity and small town intrigue, and a killer opening scene. But after Ben gets to the grocery store, that's really where the story stalls out for me. There are long unnecessary scenes spent in the store as Ben learns the ropes of how to be a stock boy. This has nothing to do with the plot and becomes as monotonous as I'm sure restocking the shelves of a grocery store is.
If you treat the book like a mystery and try to figure out whodunnit, it all unravels fairly easily. There are plenty of clues and one scene in particular that stands out. But the conclusion of the book felt jumbled and left me confused. Some things were not well explained, and in fact did not make all that much sense, and after I closed the book, I felt like I was missing something. I think it was just that the ending felt empty, though. That the book never lived up to its promise
I think this feeling came about because much of the middle of the book doesn't seem to be interested in the actual forward motion of the plot. Ben is not a motivated character. Sometimes his actions seem nonsensical, only to draw out the plot rather than to strike at the heart of the matter. I wanted something to happen, but it felt so amorphous and loose, instead of heading somewhere with intent.
I think a shorter book would have been much more effective, cutting out a lot of the middle part, especially the grocery store fluff, the red herrings we never fell for, and the inaction of the lead character. (A little is OK, but a lot is just boring.)
Auerbach has talent as a writer, but this book feels unfinished to me. It needed a stronger edit, and a more conclusive end. I am still interested to try his immensely successful Penpal and will be on the lookout for any future books from him.
Assistant editor, amateur photdographer, bibliophile, and occasional sleuth.