Reacher’s righting wrongs again

2010-07-07 00:00

BOOK REVIEW

61 Hours

Lee Child

Bantam Press

I MUST confess to having some kind of literary blind spot when it comes to Lee Child’s mind-bogglingly successful thrillers featuring his loner character Jack Reacher. Friends with similar tastes in American suspense fiction recommend him, critics I respect recommend him, but I simply don’t get it.

A righter of wrongs and solver of crimes, Reacher is given to faster-than-a-computer cerebral detection interspersed with bursts of extreme violence. This one-man A-Team is an ex-military cop who opted for a non-stick life on leaving the army. And I mean nonstick: he doesn’t even live out of a suitcase but buys clothes as he needs them — he bins the dirty ones.

For many of the earlier books in the series Reacher didn’t even have an identity document, but Child was forced to bring his character in from the cold when confronted with the demands of United States home security, post 9/11. Despite all this macho stuff Child’s creation is most popular with female readers.

In a bid to fathom Reacher’s allure I went back to the first in the series, The Killing Floor, that sees him pitch up in a small town hiding a big secret. Overloaded with plot and too-neat ­solutions, it failed to hook.

The latest, 61 Hours, finds Reacher stranded in another small town after being caught up in a bus crash. But this is no ordinary dorp, there’s a state witness being guarded around the clock, a Mexican drug lord who wants the witness dead, a high-security prison and a colony of bikers living around a strange building.

Tension mounts as the 61-hour countdown starts ticking (though any seasoned thriller reader will quickly spot the key bad guy) but what makes this an unusual addition to the Reacher canon is that though self-contained, the story ends with the words “To Be Continued”. The second instalment is due in September. Fans will be ecstatic.

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