Sunday, November 03, 2013

Satisfying, If Not Quite Spine-Tingling Thrills From Old Standbys -- Book Reviews

Book Reviews

Trust Your Eyes
by Linwood Barclay
now in paperback

Never Go Back
by Lee Child
now in hardcover
(read via Kindle app)

Along with Harlan Coben, Lee Child and Linwood Barclay are--likely in that order--my favorite contemporary authors, perhaps in any genre, but certainly in the realm of suspense thrillers, a.k.a. page turners.

Many of the book reviews I've posted here are about works by one of the three, so it's not as though I'm telling you about anyone I've newly discovered.

And I even have mixed feelings about penning brief reviews of Barclay's Trust Your Eyes, recently released in paperback, and Child's latest, Never Go Back, as while both are worthwhile, satisfying, even engrossing reads by writers I like, neither book approaches their best work, in my estimation.

So on the one hand, I'm happy to introduce you--well, any you for whom this isn't a reintroduction--to a pair of high-quality page-turner novelists, but these aren't the books with which I would suggest you start an exploration. Still, if you already know and like Child and Barclay, there's no reason to avoid these works.

For the uninitiated, Barclay's Trust Your Eyes probably works better as simply a good paperback for the train (not just because Never Go Back is still in hardcover). It deviates a bit from Barclay's usual premises about a loved one gone missing--Coben's common domain as well--and perhaps that's why it took me longer to warm to.

But in telling the story of brothers who get involved in a labyrinthian crime scheme, it is rather inventive.

The tale starts in the days just after their father has died, with the older brother, Ray, returning to the home where Thomas had lived with the dad. Due to some never specifically-defined behavioral health issues--perhaps autism--Thomas spends nearly all of his time in his bedroom, studying and memorizing online maps.

In one of the Street Views, Thomas sees what he suspects to be foul play taking place in a Manhattan apartment window, albeit months earlier. Although exasperated by Thomas' oddities, including a penchant for sending notes to the CIA and insisting he speaks to a former President, Ray helps to explore what Thomas has seen, and a pretty engaging mystery unfolds, complete with a mayoral candidate, his campaign manager, a nefarious ex-cop and an Olympic gymnast turned hitwoman.


As with all of Lee Child's 17 prior books--all of which I've read--Never Go Back is "A Jack Reacher Novel."

Reacher is a massive ex-military policeman turned nomadic superhero of sorts, essentially nothing like he was embodied by Tom Cruise in the forgettable 2012 film Jack Reacher.

Though he likely would've sold even fewer tickets than Cruise, I've imagined former NFL star Kyle Turley making for a fairly good Reacher, at least in terms of how Child describes him in the novels.

Most of the past Reacher novels have kind of blended together for me at this point, but in a previous one Reacher had spoken briefly by phone with a woman named Susan Turner, a military policewoman who now holds his former command.

Never Go Back opens with Reacher trying to meet Turner--uninvited--for the first time, but running into complications that threaten to ensnare them both.

Child is an artful enough writer, and Reacher a sufficiently-engaging character, that I never wanted to stop reading, but nothing much that happens in Never Go Back feels all that surprising. Much of it feels--for Reacher and legions of faithful readers, as all the books are bestsellers--like "been there, done that."

That doesn't mean that I won't look forward to the next Reacher novel, nor dissuade fellow Reacherites from rampaging through this one, but I wouldn't mind if Child takes Jack in a bit of a different direction.

Not that one needs to read the Reacher series in order, but if you have yet to be indoctrinated, I would suggest starting with Lee Child's first Reacher novel, 1997's Killing Floor. If you like it, I imagine you'd want to read several more, including eventually Never Go Back, which, for better or worse, is much the same old story.

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