August 8, 2013

August 8, 2013

Things I’ve Read: The Jack Reacher Novels

I've mentioned just how much I enjoyed the film Jack Reacher. Though it generally got middling reviews, I thought it was a pretty tight thriller, with just the right amounts of action (lots), logical reasoning (lots) and romance (a teeny bit). Since it seems books are always better than movies, I decided to try a Jack Reacher novel.

Long story short, I ended up getting the Kindle version of the first SIX books. Oops. Always one to squeeze every bit of value out of a library loan, though, I resolved to read all six during the three-week loan period if it killed me. Thankfully, they’re fast reads. By which I mean not that they’re short, but that they’re so engrossing that you find yourself staying up every night until 2 a.m. because JUST ONE MORE CHAPTER, MOM.

The books are a bit formulaic, which is not at all a problem for this Nancy Drew fan. Jack Reacher, former sniper and MP*, has been roaming the US ever since his honorable discharge from the Army. He lives off the grid, getting cash via Western Union, riding buses, hitchhiking, and so on. In each book, he wanders into a town somehow gets mixed up with or accused of a recent or threatened crime, and has to figure out who actually did it. He’s often working against the official law enforcement Powers That Be but with a single cop/lawyer/FBI agent who realizes that Reacher is innocent. Said cop/lawyer/FBI agent is always a woman. Sometimes she ends up killed by the bad guys (spoiler) but not until after she and Reacher have had a special hug or two.

Jack Reacher himself is basically the mind of Sherlock Holmes in the body of Arnold Schwarzenegger. He makes the occasional mistake, but he is basically unequivocally good. And I like that in a literary hero every once in a while. You start these books knowing that by the end, Jack Reacher will: 1) still be alive, 2) have solved the crime, and 3) be leaving town (and one broken hearted gal) behind. On the way, you the reader will have learned a bit about guns, military tactics, the law, and whatever middle-of-nowhere town the book was set in. Examples I’ve read so far have included Montana, Georgia, and Texas. And the minutiae has been so interesting that I’m planning rail trips across the West to see it for myself.

It’s actually surprising that the author, Lee Child, gets the small town America thing down so well, considering that he’s British. Other than the occasional odd phrase (can’t imagine an American ever referring to “my elder brother” instead of “my older brother”, or a yogurt pot vs. a yogurt cup) or the fact that the characters call them mobile phones, it reads as if written by a Yank. Nice job, Child.

I had to give myself a cooldown period before getting book 7; I needed to catch up on my sleep.

* Was your first instinct “Member of Parliament”? Mine too. But it’s actually “military policeman.”

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