This will be a review of Lee Child’s third Jack Reacher novel. I will do reviews of books other than the Reacher set, I promise. It’s just that I’ve reached the point in life where I have no need or desire to better my brain, or learn anything. I read just for fun, and to pass the time. Many years ago, I kidded the wife about the “Nurse Jane” romance novels she read. As the son grew up, in his desperation to read anything, he got hooked on several of these series. Now I denigrate them at my peril.
Both the romantic novels, and my men’s adventure books are one short step up from comic books, and are hardly serious enough prose to base a review on. They’re not a complete waste of time though. A surprising number of crossword and Jeopardy answers can be found in their gossamer plots.
The Author – Lee Child
The Book – Tripwire
Before he died of cancer, the old General who trained Reacher as an MP, started an investigation. People are dying because a scam-artist from the Viet Nam war still doesn’t want to be found after 30 years, and the General’s daughter is in danger.
I don’t go looking for mistakes, but I’m observant enough that I often find them, especially in print. Reacher starts the book with two jobs in Key West. To protect the girl, he needs to get to New York soonest, so he has a stripper drive him in her Porsche to the Miami airport, in the middle of the night. The book says, the only time she slowed to under 100 MPH, was when she went across the causeway to the mainland.
I drove out to Key West and back once. It’s a hundred miles of on and off tiny islands, and through small towns, on a narrow, two-lane road, smaller than some English country lanes. Average speed was about 40 MPH. To try it at a hundred, almost guarantees that someone dies, and what for? Why not fly out of the Key West airport? There are 58 flights to NYC a day, 47 of them direct flights, starting at 7:55 AM.
It gave Reacher a chance to do some role-playing disguise. If you strut up to the desk at Miami, and buy a one-way ticket with cash, you will be stopped and questioned by police about drug-smuggling. Reacher looked poor, and non-threatening.
I began to wonder if Lee Child was being paid off for product placement by General Motors. The heroine drove an Oldsmobile Bravada SUV. The two contract killers drove either a Chevy Yukon, or a GMC Tahoe. Child knows that they are the same vehicle, except for badging, but, being a Brit, he called them all Jeeps.
British word-usage was endemic through the book. The heroine wore trousers instead of slacks or pants. The missing man studied accountancy, not accounting, and had a passing-out ceremony instead of a graduation. That sounds like a university party, or an old Victor Borge skit. Everyone carried mobiles instead of cell phones. I felt almost at home as Child described a road in New York City which changed names four times as it traveled from one borough, into the next.
In this book, Child seems to have a real fixation on the Hudson River. He has the General’s home directly across it from West Point, and an old couple’s house 30 miles further up-river. Three times in one chapter, he has someone approach it and note, “A mile-wide hush in the forest ahead.” Come on, this isn’t the Mighty Mississippi. It’s the Hudson, a hundred miles from the mouth; you can almost skip a stone across.
Child often provides a plethora of descriptive detail, usually right where you don’t need it. When Reacher visited the old couple, Child listed all kinds of flowers, shrubs and trees. He described a once-wide walkway, now reduced to a narrow trail through the overgrowing bushes. I looked out my back window at plants the wife and I spent ten years planting, and getting to grow, but now don’t have the time or strength to uproot, or trim back.
This is just an eBook problem. I was reading, and Reacher passed a homeless bum, but I saw it as burn. I chalked it up to old eyes, until I saw the word again in the next chapter. There it was again, burn, not bum. Kobo has a feature where you can just tap a word on the screen, and it will give you a dictionary meaning. Sure enough, it defined “BURN.”
Drug dealers in NYC use any gun they can get their hands on, usually obtained through break-ins and theft. Reacher took down a lookout, a guard and a dealer, to get a handgun, all while he waited for a pizza. The lookout had a Chinese .22 caliber semi-automatic pistol – odd, but possible in the Big Apple. The guard had a .38 caliber revolver, which Child had Reacher throw away, because he had been told that they had no stopping power.
Child armed the drug dealer with a 9 MM Steyr GB, rare and expensive even in Europe, their home, but even more rare and expensive in New York. I guess burglars can’t be choosers. Later, the evil genius pulled out his handgun and pointed it at our damsel-in-distress. Child has her describe it as “flat black, but shiny, bedewed with droplets of oil.” “Flat black” means it has a non-rust coating, and doesn’t need to be oiled on the outside. That much oil would foul clothing and/or the holster, causing the gun to fall out, and might make it nigh-impossible to hold.
He later reached into his pocket and removed a 1 inch diameter roll of duct tape, with perhaps five yards left on it. Sounds like more British goods. Every roll I’ve seen in North America has a 3 inch core. This book was written in 1997, and Child has Reacher go to an Army Forensic Anthropologist, to absolutely identify the bones of returned Viet Nam MIAs. This was just as Kathy Reichs was getting started as a writer. I wonder, which came first, the Chicken-Colonel, or the Bones?
In the end, Reacher jumps in front of one of those puny .38s, and takes a hit, to save the damsel. He wakes up in the hospital to be told that the powerful pectoral muscles over his sternum stopped the bullet. There are no muscles over the sternum, and, if there were, they wouldn’t stop a .38 at eight feet.
While these books are as much fun as the drivel I won’t show you, I have trouble with the suspension of disbelief, and had hoped for a little more precision, and fewer plot holes.