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The Clean Up - Review

An Amazon purchase I made the other day was Sean Doolittle's latest SAFER. Mr. Doolittle is a guy who never fails to disappoint. His first book DIRT contains so much insight into human frailty... mainly my own set of human frailties... that I find the book to be a bit spooky. THE CLEAN UP is his fourth book and one that, like most things, I have been wanting to read for a good long while.

Matt Worth is a cop, and a screw up. He comes from a long line cops, none of them screw ups. Matt is serving his time at a Grocery store for taking a poke at a Homicide Detective, who is sleeping with his ex-wife. But he finds it oddly fulfilling bagging groceries and chit-chatting with Gwen, the checker. Gwen has problems, like a boyfriend who beats her. Matt is protective, so when Gwen shows up at work, catatonic one night bruised head to toe, Matt knows its all gone Pete Tong. A cursory review of Gwen's apartment reveals Gwen's fella got a taste of his own medicine and is dead. Funny thing is the boyfriend was also a mule for the local drug kingpin. And by the way there is money missing. A lot of money.

Suffice to say the book is dark. Violence is surprising and brutal. But THE CLEAN UP is also pretty hilarious in several passages. Two Narco cops are playing both sides of the fence. Their back and forth banter is relaxed in the way people mingle everyday conversations with the terrible things in their lives.

THE CLEAN UP is almost all story. There is very little sitting around to smell the roses. The psyche of the character Matt is for the most part pleasingly unexplored. Yeah, he comes from a long line of cops. Yeah, his one brother was killed in the line of duty. Yeah, his other brother is an ex-con. Yeah, the cop he took a poke at is engaged to his ex and now they are expecting a baby. Yeah, he is protecting a woman he barely knows. But all of this doesn't really mattered. Decisions are made in the split second and rarely do we even as people in the real world dwell on the particular situation. It is an uncluttered narrative where our lead character displays a stunning lack of internal turmoil about the things he has seen and the things he has done.

From the stand point of reading it was refreshing to see something that was not interrupted at every turn by the protagonist weighing his options about how this action or that decision would effect the outcome of his/her mortal soul. I don't mean this to be faint praise about THE CLEAN UP, just the opposite in fact. Mr. Doolittle trusts his reader to fill in the gaps. We may not know what goes into a body dump, but we all know what it means to face tough and at times gut wrenching decisions.

I'm going to call it right now and write The Clean Up sets the standard for all other books I will read this year. Phenomenal. He is the best author you are not reading.


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