61 Hours – Lee Child

Lee had a successful career as a British television executive, until he was fired in one of the routine shake-ups that beset that industry, and headed off to America to write.  Jack Reacher was the result.  An ex military cop, who worked his way up through the ranks until he commanded a special operations unit.  Now retired, the habits of a lifetime die hard.  Rootless, and liking it that way, Reacher travels America, taking short-term contract work where he finds it – and usually ending up in the middle of a serious criminal conspiracy along the way.

Reacher, the ultimate good-guy has this habit of getting involved.  He checks things out and finds them not quite right.  His trained, logical mind works out connections nobody else sees, and his unique insights into human motivation raise suspicions in his mind about the otherwise unquestionably pure and honourable folks around him.

61 Hours opens with Reacher riding a bus through an ice-storm in South Dakota, when the driver crashes into a ditch, leaving the passengers stranded for a few days in a small town that depends for its survival on servicing a brand-new correctional facility a few miles out on the prairie.  Things are not quite right.   The police are locked into a service contract which requires every last officer to rush to the perimeter of the prison within ten minutes of a riot or escape alarm sounding.

These sporadic evacuations of the law from the town provides an ideal opportunity for serious criminal behaviour, especially when not too far away there is an abandoned air force installation (with a network of tunnels ideal for storage purposes), which happens to be occupied by a gang of bikers.

I’m not quite sure how Reacher, who travels light, manages to gain the trust of the struggling senior police officers but he seems to have the connections to get information hidden from the locals and soon all hopes depend on him – or do they?  Maybe not all the officers are batting for the same side.

Its important to pay attention when reading Lee Child.  He scatters clues along the way.  Sometimes you realise that things don’t quite add up.  Other times a new revelation has you scampering back through the pages to check a clue you missed earlier.  Reacher’s powers of analysis equal those of Sherlock Holmes, and he is a master of predicting likelihood and calculating  probability, always getting as far as he can get but often still finding that the evidence was not quite complete enough to avoid trouble – and then his other more physical attributes come into play.

Reacher is strangely rather staid.  He only drinks black coffee, and he is not a great womaniser.  His style is almost that of a warrior-monk, but his self-denial comes from a lack of interest in material things rather than a deliberate self-discipline.  He is focussed on the task in hand and he only feels good about himself when solving problems.  Then he moves on to the next one (although some readers including me will wonder how he can possible feature in any more novels after this one – we will have to wait and see).

I read a lot of books. Nobody would claim that Lee Child’s books are great literature or that they will become classics.  But for sheer page-turning entertainment they are hard to beat.

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