Bad Man

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 21 Aug 2018

Member Reviews

The author of the legendary creepypasta Penpal has come out with his first all-original novel – or, since Penpal has itself now been officially published, his second novel. Penpal isn't one of my all-time favorite creepypastas, personally, but it was creepy enough and well-written enough to make me want to seek out more by Auerbach.

Bad Man is the story of fifteen year old Ben who, while babysitting his three-year-old brother Eric, runs an errand at the local grocery store. Ben turns his back for a few seconds and Eric disappears, never to be seen again. There's no record of him leaving on the store's security cameras, no real suspects, and a police search turns up nothing. 

Five years later Ben's parents are still lost in grief and Ben himself has become obsessed with finding Eric, continuing to hand out missing-person flyers, visiting any newcomers in town, and constantly harassing the one detective still assigned to the case. This has given Ben a reputation that renders him more-or-less unemployable, and he ends up taking a job as an overnight stock boy at the very grocery store where Eric disappeared, after the owner doesn't recognize him since Ben hasn't been back since that fateful day. This actually proves to be a mixed blessing for Ben: he becomes good friends with the other employees (and I absolutely ship Ben/Marty. Where is that fanfic?), giving him some of his first real connections outside of his family. He also becomes convinced that the secret of what happened to Eric is hidden within the store, as he seems to discover clues suggesting that Eric's still alive and his captor is deliberately taunting Ben.

I enjoyed the book. It's slow to get started – which was surprising, because if there's one thing creepypasta does well, it's getting readers hooked from the very beginning. As with all internet writing, it's a constant battle to keep your readers from clicking away. But Bad Man's sleepy beginning works to set the rich atmosphere of the hot, humid small town in the Southern US where Ben lives, and his claustrophobic existence. The small hints that Ben's narration is not entirely reliable are also very well-done. I gradually found myself sucked into the story; Auerbach's writing was more than suspenseful enough to keep me turning the pages. And there are some excellently creepy scenes of the empty store at night, and of Ben's disturbing neighbors. 

On the other hand, I can't entirely recommend Bad Man, and it's all because of the ending. I think I understand what Auerbach was going for and it's not a bad idea for a twist ending, but it ends up not matching the majority of the preceding book. Major plot threads are dropped without explanation, while the explanations we do get just open up more questions. I still think Auerbach has a lot of potential, but maybe his next book will be a better showcase of it.
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I have very mixed feelings about this book.  There was enough interesting about it that it kept me reading, but I also found it a bit confusing.  I felt invested in the character of Ben.  I felt sorry for him that his brother was missing and the guilt he felt.  I actually liked the side characters of Ben's coworkers better than Ben or his family.  I found a lot of the narrative somwehat confusing.  The amount of time passing was entirely vague and the timeline was difficult to follow at times.  The ending both surprised and frustrated me.  It left me with more questions than answers.  Overall, it was ok but not great.

Thanks to NetGalley for a copy of this book.
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When I first read the synopsis, I initially thought this sounds a good thriller. and at the beginning it was. It wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. Some parts didn’t make s sense to me. Characters where not sympathetic. All so distant and cold. I couldn’t really warm up with their personalities. I wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone but I some event didn’t add up to what happened towards the end. I wouldn’t think it needed to be shared because it served no purpose. It was a semi fast novel, just towards the end it kept dragging to get to the finale and. Don’t get me wrong, the whole story was catchy but the plots and twists wasn’t much of an attention grabber like I thought it would be. I may have a high standards with these plots and twists so check it out yourself.
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Ben’s little brother Eric disappeared 5 years ago on a trip to the grocery store. Ben looked away for a moment but that’s all it took...his little brother vanished. Fast forward a few years and Ben is desperate for a job. He takes a job at the grocery story that Eric disappeared in and begins the search for answers. This is a dark, slow moving, creepy story. I found it to be incredibly lengthy as there is too much “filler” that is unnecessary to the story. I found myself skimming frequently and hoping the author would make his point. Ultimately this was not for me but if you like dark, spooky tales then this is the book for you. For me, Bad Man was ⭐️⭐️/5 stars. Thank you @doubledaybooks for this advance reader in exchange for my honest review.
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I was granted access by to an ARC in exchange for an honest review. This book was hooked my in the first few pages, and I had a tough time putting it down! An eerie, murder mystery that I'll recommend to all lovers of horror and psychological thrillers!
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Initial thoughts: "Dathan Auerbach’s novel is creepy but slow. It was one of those that I wanted to finish to find out what happened, but it dragged so much that I ended up skimming a two-thirds of it. The story needs to be cut by a good 100 pages or more to tighten up the narrative and make it a truly impressive novel."

Now: Bad Man is another novel that does not hold up over time very well. The fact that it is such a slow-progressing story does not help matters, as your focus tends to wander while reading it. Plus, I cannot help but feel that the story is either trying to piggyback on another recent release about a bad seed or else is the unfortunate victim of poor timing (to say the title of the other novel would be to give away a huge plot spoiler for this one). While the two stories are very different in narrative and action, their endings are similar. Sadly, Bad Man now has me snorting in derision at the emotional manipulation of the story, while the other novel continues to impress me with its nuances and fodder for discussion.
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I received this book in exchange for a honest review from NetGalley. 

I have been following Dathan Auerbach since his days posting Pen-pal on the r/nosleep subreddit. I loved Pen-pal and its engaging story. One of the things Auerbach does incredibly well in his writing is he develops an incredible sense of feeling and can make you feel the way that strange and unusual events are impacting the lives of the various characters, Bad Man is no exception. This book has its downfalls in a extremely winding and convoluted plot that at times seems to drone on without end. Many times though that droning has a profound impact on the way that you experience the lives of the characters in this small Floridian town where life just keeps going whether you want it to or not. Overall I really enjoyed the book despite its downfalls because of the deep way that I connected with the characters and their grief and pain.
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There’s no shortage of tales, real or fictionalized, in which a precocious child disappears into dark alleys, even darker basements or into the arms of villains only to show up in body bags, on the cover of milk cartons, or smiling from decrepit flyers you can hear flapping in the wind at night. We will always assume they are dead.

That’s what it seems the adults milling about the fringes of *Bad Man*are imagining and something Ben can’t accept. His little brother Eric, whose tiny hands were clasped with Ben’s as they quarreled and careened through the local supermarket and a turned head. One missed moment and we have a missing child and it is that missing moment that will consume young Ben’s life as he turns his hometown upside down looking for Eric. 

Author Dan Auerbach’s *Bad Man* is a harrowing account of a boy who refuses to accept that his brother is not alive but still out there, scared and alone. Well… *maybe* alone. Ben walks the streets of his hometown, flyers in hand, knocking on doors, harassing the police who can’t seem to do their job, and taking his frustrations out on his family and new co-workers. Ben makes a pivotal decision to get a night shift at the supermarket where his brother disappeared. This dead-end job proves to be an interesting device for Auerbach’s projected suburban dead end loop filled with rotting red herrings and a cast of characters seem determined to drive Ben to madness.

If Blumhouse has its eyes on what brings kids to the theater then it makes sense their Blumhouse Books imprint would set their sights on Dathan Auerbach, whose Reddit fueled first novel, PenPal, is easily one of the most terrifying and talked about horror novels of the past decade. Yes, I said it. Deal with it. Where Dathan succeeded in scares for that novel, he elevates *Bad Man *emotionally and creates a core character that is suitably as troubled as our times using not an uncommon plot line to spring up in a world where the news is more horrifying than any terror tale. Here the time is spent wisely questioning what happens when you start looking at yourself and your own behavioral pattern in relation to a traumatic event and environment. 

Before it’s dizzying cat-and-mouse ending, which for me felt a little scattered and slow despite the switch to action and resolution over the morose and mysterious activities that precede it, *Bad Man* has a lot to say about the way trauma can affect our own judgment and the belief in our own actions.
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I have talked about this book in my most recent video.  It is in a video where I talk about a lot of things so Bad Man is talked about at 11:50.  Unfortunately I did not have a favorable opinion of this book..
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2.5 ⭐️
cw: child abduction, abuse, fat-shaming, racism/slurs
disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. All of the opinions presented below are my own.

I’ve been leaning into a lot of spooky reads recently and was very excited at the concept of reading a novel written by someone who was so well-known on r/NoSleep. I was a little worried about someone who was used to shorter fiction writing a novel (not that I know much about Dathan’s writing history besides the blurb on Goodreads). Unfortunately, I do think that the length got the best of him in this one.

The start of the book was nothing short of incredible. The more I read, the more I forgot how strongly it had started, so I’m grateful to past me for making note of that. Dathan is clearly a master of crafting atmospheric environments and did a wonderful job of setting up the story. I almost missed by stop on the train and at one point, while reading on my lunch break, I got spooked by someone walking by my desk in broad daylight.

It began to lose me around the 50% mark. I felt like the story was dragging and I didn’t really feel invested in seeing what would happen next. In fact, I’m not sure I would’ve finished the book if it weren’t an ARC that I felt obligated to read and review. Most of the characters other than Ben, the MC, felt really flat and I had no idea what was going on with the plot. There were also these weird inserts between chapters that, while they made sense in the end, didn’t accomplish much except for pulling me out of the story to roll my eyes.

Ben is also fat and there’s a lot of negative, unchallenged fat-shaming (both from Ben himself and others) that doesn’t feel like it has much of a purpose. Part of Ben’s weight is explained by his disability (a permanent leg injury), but it’s hard to tell whether the author is intentionally fat-shaming or is examining internalized fatphobia. Regardless, as I said, it’s not challenged at any point and may be difficult for readers who find that type of content to be triggering.

I will say that the book picks back up and I tore through the last 25% of it, frantic to know what was going on. I wasn’t quite satisfied by the end, but I think it was pretty well-done. It is absolutely horrific and did send chills through me, because it hits on something that freaks me out a lot personally. There were some things that definitely could have been tidied up, but nothing major.

Overall, it was an ok read. I’m right on the fence between “liked it” and “didn’t like it” and am probably gonna stay there. I think I would’ve liked it a lot more if the middle had been trimmed up and if the author had been able to maintain throughout the atmosphere he conjured at both the beginning and the end. If you think this is going to be your thing, I say go for it, but I’m also not anticipating putting this on any recommendation lists.
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I cannot stop thinking about this book. It’s brilliant in its creation of a deeply dark, shadowy, creepy, small-town-secrets atmosphere. In this sense, the atmosphere reminds me of the feeling “House of Leaves” gives me. (Now, I’m not comparing the story to “House of Leaves”, just the incredibly vivid atmospheric quality.) the story itself is decent enough, but, honestly, it’s the depth and clarity of the characters and their interactions with their own circumstances and people around them that really make this book stand out. I can’t tell you how many “horror” books I’ve read that utterly fail at creating a properly scary, oppressive, dark feeling without just going crazy with gratuitous, unfounded violence and perversion. This book just gets right to the creepy feel and doesn’t give us too much extraneous bullshit. 

However, I will say if you want a neatly wrapped package of a book, or one that isn’t sometimes slow moving, this won’t be the right one for you. As for me, I loved it. And like I said, still thinking about it - though more specifically, I’m still feeling it and that creepy creepy vibe.
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DNF @ 21%

I was so excited about this book because I loved PenPal. Then I looked at some of the reviews for the book and became very concerned. But I quickly discovered those reviews were right. 

I lost interest in this very quickly. The first 10-12% was good, but the story did not go anywhere for me. Most of the plot that I read was about the older brother getting a job at the supermarket where his younger brother went missing. It’s so forgettable that I don’t even remember any characters’ names. 

Today was the first time I felt compelled to pick the book up in a week, and after one chapter, I knew I was done with this. Maybe I will try it again in the future, but the plot was too slow and did not hold my attention.
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3 & 1/2 stars

Thank you to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for giving me a copy of this book in an exchange for an honest review.


If anything involving kids doesn't sit well with you then I don't recommend this. I hate anything that happens to kids but I love shows like Criminal Minds and thrillers/horror stories. This plot was so twisted and literally left me speechless until the very end. This was really one of those books that I had no idea what was happening or who was to blame. Usually, sometimes I get an inkling but guys you will not be ready for this ending. I am still reeling over the way this ended. This story follows Ben as he searches for clue after clue to find his baby brother. Ben and Eric have to go to the town grocery store. While they are there they do what brothers do, bicker and banter. When Eric has to use the restroom Ben gets a little annoyed because he JUST asked Eric if had to go. Getting out of line a man says he will take Eric and ok that is weird. Ben takes his brother but while in the bathroom Eric drops his toy into the toilet. As Ben is cleaning it he turns away for a moment. When he turns back...Eric is gone. Ben searches all over the store and the search parties are a blur. Five years later Ben is 20 and about to work at the store where Ben went missing. His relationship with his dad and stepmom is strained and he doesn't have any friends. The police department deputy is of no help and Ben doesn't know what to do in life. As he starts working there news of Eric shows up and Ben sets out on a mission to find his brother once and for all no matter what. He is not sure who to trust and everything seems so strange but he knows the answers to his brother's abduction is somewhere in that store. This truly had me on edge. I had to put the book down a few times because my heart was pounding too hard. This plot was so good and again that ending still has me shaken up.


The writing was so intricate and detailed. The author put in the perfect amount of twists and turns to keep you on a guessing wheel. Just when you think you solved it the author throws you for a spin. This is not a light and fluffy read. It will keep you on edge and maybe make you uncomfortable sometimes. My only complaint is the book should have been a bit shorter. I think at the 70% point I was ready to end the book. It got a little too wordy and explanationy for me. It was like ok just tell us who did it. Then it picked up when we finally found out what happened. That would be the only thing that I would say this needed to make it five stars because it felt like it was dragging and losing the momentum. 


Ben is an overweight 20-year-old young man struggling with what happened at 15. He is a loner and doesn't like himself at all. He struggles with identity and so many things make him question himself/his brain. He really loves his little brother and he never gives up until the very end. He was a really interesting character to read about. He is pretty tough and will go to great lengths to solve the disappearance of Eric. I also liked Marty. He was a bit of a mystery. He was hilarious and he became one of Ben's only friends. Sometimes you question him but really you do that with every single character in this book. He is determined to help Ben find his brother and he does a lot to do help him. The whole cast was really good and everyone played their part well. I didn't know who to trust and who was the main antagonist. When all is clear you will never have seen it coming.

Will be published on this month.
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This is a great attempt at the horror genre, unfortunately it had a hard time keeping my attention. There felt like there were a lot of filler pages. It got to be too much.
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Ben's older brother goes missing while on a trip to the grocery store. Five years later, Ben is still looking for the boy, and ends up taking a job at the store he disappeared at. The characters populating the store are all just a little off in some way, and to make matters worse for Ben, clues to his brother's disappearance begin showing up in the store. I really wanted to like this book. The writing is suspenseful and tight, but the plot's progress is slow and repetitive. Readers may often feel as though they are on the precipice of something substantial only to have it snatched away. Still, I would like to give the author's other book, Penpal, a try, as I truly did enjoy the writing style of Bad Man.
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A genuinely creepy book. You hear about child abductions every day and this book puts in the mind of family that goes through it.. You feel so deeply for everyone I this book.
I received a copy through Netgalley and chose to review iy
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Like "Penpal" before it, Dathan Auerbach has created another creepy, atmospheric story that will have you wondering what that creaking was just outside your door...make you want to sleep with a night light on...and hope you have a nightmareless sleep! To say anything else would just do a disservice. Go in knowing nothing but the plot and  then  disappear into the story.
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Bad Man, by Dathan Auerbach, follows the story of Ben who loses his brother, Eric, at a grocery store one afternoon.  Flash forward to five years in the future and Ben has not given up hope in finding his brother and starts working at that same grocery store!  Ben can sense something is wrong with the store, or the employees, or even the townspeople… he knows he is on the right path to discovering the truth of his brother.

The first few pages in this book are straight fire and hooked me in right away.  I had a sense of excitement that this book was going to be an instant 5-star read.  I started having all kinds of nostalgia vibes of me and my older brother when we were younger.  We would play games and annoy each other just like Ben and Eric.  You get a sense of the relationship between the two brothers and you can start to learn just how much the vanishing of young Eric affects Ben and his family life.  But after Eric’s disappearance things go a little downhill…

For starters, I felt saturated with the inner workings and description of a grocery store.  I have been in one… quite a few actually… and many times.  I did not need all the drawn out details of the store.  We get introduced to some of Ben’s new co-workers, but as the pages keep turning, I found myself forgetting all about the plot line of the vanishing brother and wondering where the heck this was going.  Was my time just being wasted?

Once you pass the halfway mark in the book, it seems the story gets a little more on track to what you expect it to be about.  You start to think maybe there will be some answers coming and some plot twists and less grocery store descriptions and long, semi-meaningless conversations between Ben and his co-workers that add what to the plot?  I am not sure if it’s just to throw all these red herrings our way or what, but it didn’t work for me.

And when the fate of Eric is revealed, it just seems rushed and almost under-explained.  After hundreds of pages, that was what we get?  Then the book just ends.  It’s all just a little jumbled up at the end.  I think the book could have been at LEAST 100 pages shorter and been just as effective if not more effective.  The amount of time the book focused on things that were just totally unrelated to what is happening can be wiped out.  I had higher hopes for this one because the synopsis sounded so good.  But 400 pages is just too long of a book for the way this one panned out in my opinion…

Also, I went into this book expecting it to be a horror novel.  It was definitely more of a mystery/suspense book and read as such.  It gets 3 out of 5 stars from me.

Dathan Auerbach writes extremely well and I want to check out his first book, Penpal, as well as keep an open eye for his future works.  Thank you to Doubleday for providing the Night Worms this ARC in exchange for an honest review!
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In some ways, feels more like a first novel than the author's first novel. Some fascinating ideas, but a rambling execution. This author could go a long way with the right kind of editor involvement.
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BAD MAN is the first book I have read by Nathan Auerbach.  This novel is not one I'd actually classify as "horror", although some of the elements--emotionally speaking==were horrific.  Anyone who's ever had a child would find the disappearance of one so young, heartbreaking.  Ben was with his younger brother, Eric, when he went missing.

He never stopping looking for him.

What follows is more of a mystery that crosses over into "fantasy", at times, in my opinion.  Although I did enjoy the writing style, there were times when I realized I was reading through just to get to the the end and final solution.  The unreliable narrator has always been hit-or-miss for me, and in this case I think it just missed the mark.  There were also a lot of what I considered "unnecessary" details that seemed put in simply to amp up the page count.  Had this been trimmed down by 100 pages or so, it might have kept my interest more so. 

While this book wasn't for me, personally, I think that it may hit the mark with others (looking more for a missing persons story) more.
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