Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Newest Reacher Novel an Empty Thrill Ride; Lisa Gardner Cop Combo Satisfies

Book Review (other books reviewed below in same post)

61 Hours: A Reacher Novel
by Lee Child

Lee Child is my second favorite author of what I'll call "fast fiction," meaning mysteries, suspense novels and other books that are enjoyable page turners rather than great literature. But fast fiction is my favorite type of reading and behind only Harlan Coben, I'll put Lee Child's output--all featuring the main character of Jack Reacher--above John Grisham, Dan Brown, Carl Hiaassen as my silver medalist in this category.

Having read all 14 of Child's Reacher stories, I know that I liked some better than others, but can't recall specifics that readily distinguish one from another. None took more than a few days to read, so I would heartily recommend any of them if you need a great quick read on an airplane, beach, etc.

Given that the latest, 61 Hours is still in hardcover, is far from the best book of the Reacher series and ends in a cliffhanger to be continued in Worth Dying For (due out in October), I would not recommend that this is the one you start with, especially if you can't get it from your local library just yet (I waited about 3 months on the Reserve List at the Skokie Public Library).

Still, as Jack Reacher is a good bit like another mortal superhero named Jack, that being Mr. Bauer of TV's '24,'--about which I said that even at its worst it never made me not want to watch--I would say that if you have read and liked other Lee Child's books, there is no need to pointedly avoid 61 Hours. The action moves fast and you find yourself wanting to see what happens next. It definitely counts as a decent thriller.

But even in comparison with other Reacher novels, or even fast fiction in general, the plot line,  characterizations and twists in this one seem particularly slight and subpar, as the nomadic Reacher happens to land in a small South Dakota town that has a secret meth lab run by a Mexican drug lord. As far-fetched as this setup might sound, it's not the problem so much as the fact that I had one of the main wrongdoers pegged about 200 pages before the supposedly super-keen Reacher and kept waiting for the obvious to reveal itself. And while Reacher's typical need to fall in bed with an attractive woman in each book a la James Bond is somewhat frivolous, 61 Hours suffers from the lack of a counterpart for Reacher, except for a long-distance interaction that may develop in the sequel.

So go ahead and read 61 Hours if you already like Child/Reacher, but don't expect it to be awesome, and probably skip it in favor of any of the first 10 works in the series if you don't yet know Jack.


Book Reviews

by Lisa Gardner

by Lisa Gardner

I'd never read anything by Lisa Gardner, who seemingly started as a romance writer but subsequently moved into the thriller space, until I picked up paperback versions of Alone and Hide at the recent Little City Used Book Sale. Originally published in 2005 and 2007, respectively, the two books both feature the same two main crime-fighting characters, though Hide works as a sequel to Alone more so due to the crimes depicted and similarities of the victims involved.

Both books worked well as satisfying suspense thrillers, with Alone being a bit more engaging throughout--as state trooper Bobby Dodge struggles to prove, not in the least to himself, that he was justified in killing the supposedly abusive husband of a beautiful woman with a tortured past. But though Hide was slower to get rolling, its twists in the end made it just as good if not better, as Dodge and detective D.D. Warren are on the trail of a serial killer who may or may not be connected to events that surfaced in Alone.

A bit strangely, while I felt that the two Gardner books were of higher quality than the latest by Child, I still look forward to reading the next Reacher installment much more so than another book by Gardner. But if you're looking for something to pass the time, you won't go wrong with Alone and Hide.

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