Wednesday, December 26, 2007


I find it hard to gauge whether people will like Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels. I lent the first one friend who loved it and he sent it to another that thought it was among the worst books of all time*. I suppose it depends on what you want in a book. Child's genius is not in his style, in his characterization or in particular, his believability.

Instead he creates truly nasty bad guys given to inventive means of killing. He then puts them up against Reacher, a loner Ex-MP who is smart, cynical and willing and capable of delivering immense amounts of GBH. So, nothing deep or redeeming here. Instead, Child provides strange mysteries solved by a very dangerous person set in a world where institutions are highly suspect. Call it post-pulp-noir if you like.

I ended up putting down Tripwire, which I thought was bloated and unfocused. The follow-on book Running Blind (called The Visitor in the UK, which is a better title) is far more effective, with Reacher reluctantly working with the FBI on a case for which he was the initial suspect. The killer is vile as always and kills in a rather dramatic and bizarre fashion. The mystery isn't lock tight, I figured out the how about halfway through, but the who was elusive until the end. Child's improvement in misdirection is evident in this book.

Tripwire was burdened with excessive character development, in this case a love story, which took away from what we need in these stories, weird crimes and Reacher's inventive responses to them. I'm happy that Tripwire was an aberration, not least because I had already bought the next book, Echo Burning, in hopes that I would like Running Blind.

*I should note that I lent him what he considers the top worst book of all time. Michael Slade's Ghoul. He is right, it sucks, but it was 1988, so give me a break. This one was blurbed by Bruce Dickinson of all people.

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