Book Review #3

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

The Review

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.

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Lost In Thought

Comment-provocateur John Erickson recently published a post about how Depression could derail him from his normal social circles, and send him off into extended bouts of abstruse research.  While our so-called minds don’t chase quite the same shiny objects, I appreciate his problem, because much the same can happen to me.

A typical recent day

I opened my stats page.  Someone had mined my archives and accessed my Trips With Mom And Dad post, from Feb. 18/12. I clicked on it to remind myself of the contents and comments.  This was the 14th post I had published, and was the one where I was given my very first blog-award.  Candice Coghill, for whom I recently published a requiem post, had given me a Versatile Blogger award.

I reread all the comments.  Hers included two links, one to her acceptance-speech post, and the other to the Versatile website. I nostalgically reread her post.  Mine had been the first comment, though, that far back, I didn’t have a good grasp of blog protocol, and hadn’t “liked” it.  Even though it means nothing to anyone but me, I corrected my oversight.

The Versatile logo apparently has worn off my old post, and I went to the site with the vague idea of lifting and re-applying it.  There are almost a hundred comments, over about three years, from people who have received the award.  Some wanted tech help.  Some seemed to think they must declare the receipt of their award.  Others did so with the intent to create some interest and drive readers to their site.

I picked one, not quite at random, a young female who mentioned the “seven facts about me.”  Snoopy is not just Charlie Brown’s dog.  She’s half Filipina, and half Irish-American.  She started out looking like her Dad, but has vitiligo, Michael Jackson’s “drinking bleach” disease, and now is whiter than her Mom.

I “liked” her post, and thought about leaving a long explanatory comment, but didn’t like the idea of an international restraining order.  Finally, the concept of a blog-theme broke through the mental clouds, and I was off to Dictionary.Com to check the meaning of abstruse.  Might as well look up abjure while I’m there – and a couple of others.

Crossword puzzle clue/solution, singer Alma Gluck, turns up fairly regularly, and the name Gluckstein came up recently.  Let’s use the German translation program to get an idea what those names mean.  Gluck could be printed in English as G’luck because, aside from fortune and favor, it means good luck.  Stein means stone, so Gluckstein means good luck stone, a magic amulet, or charm.

I could almost see Google beckoning to me.  Exactly who, what, and when was Alma Gluck??  She was a Romanian-Jew named Rebecca Feinsohn, who came to America around the beginning of the 20th Century.  She had a beautiful soprano voice and wanted to get into the entertainment business.  Since, at that time, Jews weren’t openly tolerated, she became the German, Alma Gluck.

Feinsohn translates as “fine son”, but “fine” used to mean small or delicate, like fine thread, or fine-grit sandpaper.  Was the progenitor of this surname small and delicate, or was he the A-one son we might think him today?

In the meantime, this Jewess, from a third of the planet away, became well-known for singing American folksongs like Carry Me Back to Old Virginny, and Swanee River with her husband, entertainer Efrem Zimbalist, not Junior, the original.  Now I know, who had no imagination.

I was down and up the stairs a half-dozen times.  I had to, to wear off all the food I stuff in my face.  It’s a good thing you didn’t see the platter of nachos I made myself for lunch.  I made and served lunch in bed to the wife, who’s still getting over her nasal surgery.  I fed and watered and medicated the cats, and let the dog out and in, each time returning to find out more about the German language, and a woman I’ve only met in newspaper crossword puzzles.

Yesterday’s crossword wanted “Kon-Tiki material” in 5.  Since I thought it was constructed of bundles of bulrush-like plants, I put in “reeds.”  I had to back out and work around to “balsa.”  Dictionary.Com has a crossword solver program, so I entered the clue.  Sure enough, there’s balsa, at the top, with a 90% likelihood.  The 6/7 other possibilities, in rapidly descending order are….interesting.  I copy them and put them in a Word file for a later post.

While I’m over at Google, looking up Alma’s skirt, I plug in Kon-Tiki, and, sure enough, there’s a picture of Heyerdahl’s balsa raft.  Or maybe that’s a photo of a couple of political refugees, on their way to Miami, from Cuba.

I finally heaved my bulk out of the computer chair, and headed downstairs to think about preparing supper.  (I fried up some onions and made up some boxed perogies, in case you care.)  Hot Damn!  It’s almost five PM!  I haven’t read anybody’s blog!  I haven’t read or responded to comments on my site!  I haven’t even read today’s paper, and I’m obsessing about composing this post.

I know I told you that I’d respect you, and call you in the morning but, ….if I haven’t shown up at your site for a couple of days, or a couple of weeks, I still love you.  It’s just that I’m lost in thought, since I have no mental GPS.  I’m probably wandering around in a forest of thoughts, that I can’t see for the trees, trying to entice my intellect back to reality with a virtual ice cream cone.  That explains why I also have a fat head.