Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, September 7, 2012


Bad Karma by Dave Zeltserman (2009)

After the incidents in Bad Thoughts (2007), Bill Shannon has left the Cambridge, Massachusetts, police department (minus two fingers) and has relocated to Boulder, Colorado, to try to rebuild his life.  He has reconnected with his ex-wife, done some occasional private investigating, and has begun practicing meditation and exploring the meaning of his dreams.  After five years, he has finally stopped having nightmares about serial killer Charlie Winters.

Shannon is hired to investigate the brutal murders of two college students.  The mother of the dead boy is suing the owner owner of the apartment building where the killings took place for five million dollars, claiming that negligence in maintaining a lock to the apartment allowed the murder to take place.  For three months, the Boulder police have been unable to make any progress in the case.  The owner of the apartment building hopes that Shannon will be able to find the killer and be able to deflect the lawsuit.

Shannon has also been contacted by the mother of a girl who has joined a cult called the True Light.  She had been unable to contact her daughter and wanted to make sure the girl was safe and hoped to get her out of the cult.  It turned out the cult was using a storefront yoga studio near the college to recruit new members.  After being rebuffed at the yoga studio, Shannon visited the cult's remote compound where several thugs -- including two Russian mobsters -- try to dissuade him from investigating the cult.  What were Russian mobsters doing with a small-time religious cult?

In the meantime, while investigating the murders, Shannon discovers that the dead boy had been buying his mother expensive items, but there is no indication of where he got the money for this came.  Shannon also begins to uncover some ugly facts about the dead girl's past.

Five years earlier, Shannon had an out-of-body experience while being tortured by Charlie Winters; he credits that experience with saving his life.  Since then he has been trying to push himself to another out-of-body experience by focusing on meditation and "vivid" dreaming.  These dreams have been sending him hints and warnings about the two cases on hand. 

Shannon believes in this, as does his ex-wife (a homeopathic practicioner) and his friend and mentor, Eli.  This gives the book a new-age feel that was a bit off-putting for me.  Despite that (and the fact that I was able to easily foresee a couple of key plot points) I soon became invested in the book through its strong characterization, fast-moving plot, solid writing, and love of the Boston Red Sox.  An enjoyable read from the get-go.

Zeltserman has only written two books about Bill Shannon.  I hope he finds time to write more.



  1. Meditation and homoeopathy? I swear by both. This must be a first in hardboiled crime-fiction, Jerry. Never read anything by Zeltserman so far but I'll check out some of his books.

    1. I think these only appear in the two Bill Shannon books, Prashant, but all of his books are worth checking out. He's the real goods.

  2. Jerry, thanks for giving Bad Karma this attention. Bad Karma fits "forgotten" more than any of my other books. The timing of when it was published couldn't have been worse--it came out within weeks of Pariah, and all of my promotional efforts needed to go to Pariah. While the book is no means a light book--there's some real darkness to the story, it was meant to be a fun hardboiled read with some new-age quirkiness, and because of that it got a better reaction from readers who weren't familiar with me than fans of my more intense noir novels that had already come out, and that made me more reluctant at the time to promote it. And then there was a problem with the cover that was being used on Amazon, which made me even more reluctant to even point to it there. So this was a book that was forgotten almost from the day it was published!

    Prashant, my wife is a homeopathic practitioner, and she has had some amazing results with her clients, so I'm a believer. In my latest book, Monster, Samuel Hahnemann makes an appearance, and homeopathy ends up playing a significant role.