Monday, May 30, 2011

Reacher Rides Again

Happily, Jack Reacher has survived the catastrophic explosion that ended his last adventure, 61 Hours. (This gives nothing away for those who haven't read the book. The fact that there is a fifteenth Reacher book is a pretty good sign that he must have survived the fourteenth, although that was not entirely clear at the time.)

Jack now finds himself out in the Middle-of-Nowhere, Nebraska, still recuperating from his injuries and attempting to find a ride to Virginia. As often happens in these books, a small and totally unexpected incident propels Reacher into a major and life-threatening adventure. In this case, Reacher meets a drunken doctor in a bar. The doctor gets a phone call from a woman who has a nose bleed that will not stop. The doctor refuses to go treat the woman and so Reacher, ever the White Knight, compels him to do so.

Once at the woman's home, Reacher quickly deduces that the woman is the victim of domestic abuse. Once the doctor has treated the woman, Reacher goes looking for the husband and punches his lights out to teach the guy a lesson. But, inevitably of course, Reacher has inadvertently stumbled into the briar patch. The husband, in concert with his father and his two uncles, have a stranglehold on the farmers and other residents who inhabit this small and isolated corner of the world. They have intimidated and dominated the kindly folk much in the same way that the Rykers had earlier intimidated and dominated the sod busters of Wyoming before Shane came to the rescue.

In essence, virtually all of the Reacher novels are modern versions of Jack Schaefer's classic novel. Our hero, who has powers beyond those of most mortal men, rides into town (usually on a bus or in a car where he has hitched a ride, rather than on a stallion), and discovers some fundamental injustice. Often the townfolk recognize that the injustice exists, but they are too weak or too scared or too disorganized to do anything about it. Reacher analyzes the problem, steps up to the plate and deals with the bad guys thus saving the town. He then rides off into the sunset (or in this case, actually, into the sunrise). Thus far, no sweet little boy has been dogging his heels begging him to stay, although occasionally there is a beautiful and usually well-sated woman who wishes that he would.

The villains in this book are among the best that Child has created, and they have a dark secret that is well hidden through virtually the entire book. There is also an old mystery that needs to be solved here and the result is another Reacher book that you can't put down. It consists of 62 tightly-written chapters, each of which just short enough to convince you that you can read "just one more" before giving it up for the night. Then before you know it, it's three o'clock in the morning and your wife is waking up again for the fifth or sixth time wondering when in the hell you're going to turn the damned light off so that she can get some sleep. By then, though, you're far enough along that she's just going to have to tough it out for another thirty minutes or so.

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