A change of pace, I think. After a multitude of Ellery Queen
braintwisters, I needed something a little lighter. One of my colleagues at work lent me this little number, the 13th Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child. Ah, Jack Reacher, a man who makes Jack Bauer look like a Tellytubbie. According to the blurb of early books, “Women Want Him, Men Want To Be Him” or some such tagline. This is the sort of nonsense that I really should hate… so why is this the ninth book in the series that I’ve read?
Reacher is riding the subway when he spots a potential suicide bomber. He tries to intervene and (this isn’t a spoiler as it’s in Chapter Three) she’s not a bomber, but she blows her own head off with a gun. Reacher, being that kind of guy, feels the need to find out if she needs avenging and then avenge her. Preferably using some guns, a knife and various bodily extremities, such as hands, feet and failing that, his forehead. What a
Pretty soon, he’s running around New York, trying to tell the goodies from the baddies, dodging government agents and generally putting the world to rights. The bad people get dealt with (after the necessary token sex scene) and Reacher rides off into the sunset. It sounds like so many formulaic thrillers, so why on earth was it so gripping?
Well, first of all, it’s very well written. The twists (which mainly consist around who’s on which side and what the hell is going on) are nicely paced and reasonable, the story doesn’t stand still at any point and Reacher, believe it or not from the description (6 foot 5, ex-military policeman), is an engaging, intelligent character. As the narrator, you are completely inside his point of view, and it’s quite a pleasant, informative place to be. Yes, he does seem to know some bizarre (albeit life-saving) trivia at times, most notably about the history of New York toilets, but going through his thought processes really seems to add something to the book.
There are quibbles, obviously – the blurb on the back of the book is pretty misleading and the McGuffin is odd – apparently too big to fit on a cheap memory stick that Reacher bought as a decoy, but when you find out what it is, you have to ask how small the memory sticks for sale in New York are – and we never find the true extent of it, but given its nature (I’m deliberately being vague here for spoiler purposes), that’s probably for the best. Child takes a bit of a risk with the inclusion of a real-life character,
but I think he dodges the bad-taste bullet here.
Anyway, a nice break from the Ellery marathon. More of a dot-to-dot puzzle than a logic problem, but all the more fun for that. Recommended.