Set Up North, Doolittle's mystery has as many twists and turns as anything by Elmore Leonard.
Sean Doolittle's standout crime novel, "Lake Country," involves a crazy chase starting in St. Paul and eventually crashing into the North Woods of Minnesota (around Brainerd) in a "Fargo"-like climax (without the wood-chipper). I don't know why more people aren't reading Doolittle, especially fans of Elmore Leonard or the late Donald Westlake. This guy is good.
The plot starts on a stool at the Elbow Room Bar in St. Paul where Darryl, a vet, hatches a plan to kidnap the daughter of an architect whose sentence for a DUI that killed a relative of Darryl's fellow veteran has "not held him sufficiently accountable." Darryl's best mate, Mike, who joined the Marines "because he couldn't think of anything better to do" and returned to the Cities with "grisly sludge where his nighttime dreams used to be," owes Darryl his life. Meanwhile, a Minneapolis TV journalist takes on a "simple highway-safety story" about the same Linden Hills architect and, when the story turns into a felony kidnapping, suddenly she's in the chase, too.
Doolittle's characters are endearingly flawed, their actions resulting from a heavy mix of misguided loyalties, heightened ambition and cheap booze. But at its not-too-hardened heart, this offbeat thriller is about the burden of friendships forged in war and the cost of revenge on those who have nothing to do with the fight.
CAROLE E. BARROWMAN