Friday, October 22, 2010

61 Hours by Lee Child

61 Hours: A Reacher Novel (Reacher Series)I've really enjoyed Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels over the years, beginning with The Killing Floor. Reacher is a former CO of an Army MP branch, who made the decision on leaving the service to become rootless, owning nothing more than the clothes on his back, and with no fixed address, wandering at whim throughout the U.S. Various places where he stops provide the settings for the novels, when Reacher encounters some group of bad guys whom only he has the power to stop. A combination of his investigative instincts and his incredible physical strength and combat training always seems to overcome the odds.

In 61 Hours, Reacher is stranded in midwinter in the small town of Bolton, South Dakota when a tour bus he is riding on slides off the road. A gang of bikers has taken over an old military installation west of town, and has evidently been manufacturing and selling methamphetamine. One of the locals witnessed a drug deal taking place, and the biker involved is in a nearby prison. The police force suspects that someone will be dispatched to kill the witness, and they're faced with the problem of trying to provide 24 hour protection for her, while constrained by an agreement with the nearby federal prison that all of the police force will respond to either a riot in or escape from the prison, which would leave her unprotected, if it happens. When Reacher arrives, the local chief of police and his deputy ask for help.

There is, indeed, a conspiracy in place to remove the inconvenient witness, and at the far end of the spider's web, tugging at the strings, is a Mexican drug lord, Plato. Interspersed through the story, Child has included scenes at Plato's compound that are truly delightful in their depiction of a totally ruthless and amoral criminal. Plato is vertically challenged, only 4'1", and when one of his associates called him a midget, he had him drugged, taken to a local hospital, and his legs sawn off at exactly 4'10" from the top of his head, then sent the family the man's legs, in a fish tank full of formaldehyde. He likes to stake out people who steal from him in the desert with a manacle around one leg, a hatchet nearby, presenting them with the choice of death by exposure, or chopping off their own leg to survive. He laments the fact that his kitchen staff fears and bows down to him at one point, musing to himself that he hasn't harmed any of them, and they have no idea about the graves of their predecessors that are located in the back yard. A wonderful villain!


Is this the season for authors to kill off their heroes? Earlier in the year, Jim Butcher ended his latest Harry Dresden  novel with an assassin's bullet striking Harry and sending his body to the bottom of a lake. Now, Child has left us hanging, wondering about Reacher's fate. At the end of the novel, there's an enormous explosion. In the previous scene, he left Reacher rushing as quickly as he could up two hundred and eighty stairs, trying to reach the exit of an underground bunker. Are these authors just getting tired of their characters, or are they just looking for an excuse to put aside the series for a while and write about something else? I guess only time will tell.

This was a very fast and engrossing read. One break from the usual formula for Reacher was that he didn't sleep with the lonely policeman's wife, though I was sorta expecting he would. There were also enough false trails in the mystery that it took me quite a while to figure out who the "mole" was that was carrying out the killings.

1 comment:

Rebecca Glenn said...

Hi! Visiting you from the blog hop. I, too, am a big Reacher (and Harry Dresden) fan; here's my review of Gone Tomorrow.

I'm following you now. Hope you'll stop by, and maybe return the favor.

Becky (The Book Frog)