Lake Country, by Sean Doolittle (Bantam):
It’s not always easy to “do the right thing,” as Iraq war vet Mike Barlowe learns when he tries to protect a former marine buddy, Darryl Potter, from the consequences of his latest screw-up. Potter, still emotionally troubled by his inability to save the life of another combat comrade, and pissed off at just about everything else--but especially at the fact that the American justice system favors the rich and powerful--has committed one of his stupidest acts yet: he’s kidnapped the 20-year-old daughter of Minneapolis architect Wade Benson. Five years ago, Benson dozed off behind the wheel of his car and crashed head-on into another vehicle, driven by college student Becky Morse. Becky died from her wounds; Benson’s “punishment” was probation, plus a couple of days a year in jail for the duration of that probation. As it happens, Potter was a friend of the Morses, and he’s decided to strike back on their behalf. However, snatching Juliet Benson and heading off with her into Minnesota’s northern Lake Country is hardly the best way to even the score. Barlowe knows that, which is why he’s determined to stop Potter before it’s too late. But his plans are seriously jeopardized by an attractive TV reporter who’s in pursuit of the story and a bounty hunter who’s in aggressive pursuit of Darryl Potter. Author Doolittle offers here an intricately woven and nicely paced tale that’s full with carefully drawn characters. Lake Country is already being talked about by some critics as a Best of 2012 contender.
* * *There are two other novels due to reach bookstores this week that also deserve favorable mention.
Dare Me (Reagan Arthur) is New York writer Megan Abbott’s second dip (after last year’s The End of Everything) into the threatening depths of teenage girlhood. It finds the ordered world of a high-school cheerleading squad being seriously thrown off, first, by the arrival of a new coach and then by a suicide that draws police attention to that coach and her squad, and propels one of the young cheerleaders into a dismaying investigation of the tragedy.
Meanwhile, The Creeper (Pegasus), by Tania Carver--the joint pseudonym of British author Martyn Waites and his wife, Linda--has Suzanne Perry weathering a particularly horrific nightmare, in which a mysterious individual invades her bedroom, only to awaken the next morning and find a photograph of herself, sleeping, with the threatening words “I’m watching you” written on it. Detective Inspector Phil Brennan (introduced in 2009’s The Surrogate) investigates, only to land on the trail of a twisted killer who worms his way into the everyday lives of young women before doing away with them. This is definitely not a book to read before bedtime, at least not if you wish your own sleep to be restful.
READ MORE: “Daughters of Daughters of Eve: An Interview with Megan Abbott,” by Laura Lippman (Mulholland Books).