Tuesday, December 08, 2009

2 x Lee Child

Lee Child was recommended to me by a former colleague, and I didn't have high hopes at all because said collegue also likes Camilla Läckberg, and I was flipping through one of her books that he'd brought to work and oh no, is that a waste of space. But I'm running out of stuff to read on my crime extravaganza, not to mention that I'm getting plain bored with it - see how I've evolved? I want real literature! - so am a bit choosy. But I decided to give Child a try, and got the two books that the library had (in English). They happen to be the two last ones in the series, no. 12 and 13. By chance I also read them in the right order, not that it matters much with this series.

Child's hero is a former military called Jack Reacher, who left the army and is now a vagrant, by choice. If you read that link you find out everything about him, which frankly spoils the books. I've now read the two last ones, and don't know that much. This is a Good Thing, because it's one of Child's strengths as an author - he doesn't feel the need to repeat stuff he's already written about. He can be repetitive in other ways, but he doesn't for example explain in every book exactly why Reacher left the military, why he has money (it's enough for him to choose to never do laundry, but instead just buy new clothes when needed, and to leave quite generous tips), why he drifts. I'm kind of wanting to read the link now, but kind of not. If I come across more of these books I'd read them, and then discover more as I go along. It's a bit of a novelty in this type of fiction to be presumed intelligent enough to follow a plot without having all the background information shoved in my face.

So among the bits I know about Reacher is that he's had a career in the army, as a Military Police. He's been around the world, has been injured several times. He's had some sort of disenchantment with the military, so that's probably why he left, I don't think he was kicked out. He now roams the US and comes across crimes or odd situations which he decided to solve or fix or change, like a one-man hurricane. He's a big man who just plunges into fights and wins. Reading the first book I was quite hooked. You just get flung into the story, and Reacher ploughs through to the end. However, reading the second I could see where he repeats himself (another attractive female police officer that Reacher has sex with for example), so it got a bit less interesting. Plus there were more things that annoyed me in that book, more on that below. There are a few inconsistencies: in Nothing to Lose Reacher comments on all the cups of coffee he drinks - a good brew, a nice cup, but in Gone Tomorrow he says that he doesn't care what the coffee is like really, it's just about the caffeine.

So in summary, much more entertaining reads than I'd thought, but not unflawed.

Nothing to Lose: Reacher is hitch-hiking, and has plotted out a course he wants to follow, a course that takes him through the town of Despair. To his surprise the townspeople act like something out of the Wild West, are openly hostile and kick him out. He goes back to the sister town of Hope and starts looking into what the problem is in Despair, enlisting the help of the sheriff (female, attractive - etc.). I was, as I said, very pleasantly surprised. A good thriller.The red heifer is mentioned, btw.

Gone Tomorrow has Reacher in New York, where he notices a woman on the subway displaying all the signs of a suicide bomber. When he tries to talk to her she kills herself. This drags Reacher into a post-9/11 mess, where he is questioned and detained without his rights. He teams up with the dead woman's brother and an attractive female police officer (natch), and tries to find out why she died. I was more annoyed with this book, because despite it being quite critical of the Terrorism Act and in general of the post 9/11 paranoia, the general conclusion seems to be that the Afghani mujaheddin became Taliban or Al Qaeda, are very viscious and cruel - not to mention a bit crazy - and to sum up the whole thing feels more than a little speculative. Meh.

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