‘Sick and fascinating at the same time’

Harry Dolan makes a foray into darker territory with serial killer mystery ‘Don’t Turn Around’


Ann Arbor-based mystery writer Harry Dolan takes his sixth book in a different direction than his previous novels, which were quirky, traditional mysteries more in the vein of the golden days of the genre, when the late Agatha Christie, Rex Stout and Dorothy L. Sayers were active.

“Don’t Turn Around,” releasing April 2, is still a confounding mystery, but Dolan has added a ruthless serial killer known as Merkury who has just murdered his 12th victim at the small college of Seagate, the scene of his first ghastly killing.

The latest murder awakens a nightmare of memories for Kate Summerlin, who as an 11-year-old girl went for a midnight walk near her home in the small college town and stumbled upon the body of Merkury’s first victim, a former student of her college professor father. Merkury, who was still at the scene, pressed a gun to the young girl’s head and told her, “Don’t turn around.”

Eighteen years later, Summerlin returns to her hometown and her estranged father and is compelled to confront the evil past. The book takes some unwieldy turns as Summerlin, a well-schooled true-crime writer who’s somewhat reminiscent of the late author Ann Rule, reconnects with the killer, leading to some overwhelming tension.

That tension is exactly what Dolan wants you to feel as the story unfolds and the amateur detective not only confronts her murky past with the killer but also works to stop the him from striking again.

Just when you think you know where the book is going, Dolan takes a hard right turn, racing to an unexpected denouement. Summerlin slowly reveals a previously unkwown piece of information about that fateful night 18 years ago that only her and the killer share.

Like most serial killer novels, there are times you’ll find yourself thinking, “Wait a minute,” as one of Dolan’s plot lines diverge, but buffs will understand that’s part of the genre.

“Serial crime fiction is so shocking, it’s hard to imagine,” Dolan said. “It’s sick and fascinating at the same time.”

The author, whose previous works include a three-novel series following Ann Arbor-based amateur detective David Loogan (“Bad Things Happen,” “Very Bad Men” and “The Last Dead Girl”) and two standalone mystery novels, said he was inspired to write a serial killer story during a walk in the woods near his home in Ann Arbor. He had already thought up the name Merkury several years before.

He has written this serial killer thriller in the shadow of greats like Thomas Harris, made famous by his Hannibal Lecter series, and Jeffery Deaver, author of “The Bone Collector.” Dolan tips his hat to Harris by starting “Don’t Turn Around” with a long conversation between the police chief and Summerlin, which is similar to the opening of Harris’ horror classic “Red Dragon.”

This is the first time Dolan has written a novel with a female protagonist, which he said was his biggest challenge. He had a hard time “getting into her headspace” and thinking about how the murder would affect her. However, he did a great job with the character, and there’s no question in my mind that he could craft an entire series with the likeable but emotionally challenged Summerlin.

Dolan said that if this book takes off, he would consider writing a series based on the true-crime author.

“It would be a perfect way for a true-crime writer to get involved in a cold-case serial murder,” he noted.

In the meantime, he’s started work on a new book that’s a modern update of the legendary Trojan War, where a woman runs away with a young man, and her husband goes after them.

mystery novel, local author, dont turn around


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