Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Worth Dying For

Worth Dying For is the first Jack Reacher novel I've read. I've heard a good deal about the series of books featuring this character, so, when I was in need of something fictional to get into, I thought I'd give one of them a go.
This book is well on in the series (the 15th) and Lee Child, the author, writes with enormous confidence about his renegade, retributionist righter-of-wrongs. Reacher hardly ever puts a foot wrong - he's that sort of character - except on one occasion when he gets his nose well and truly busted, something that several other characters in the story also suffer. In fact, if you want to remember in future which Lee Child story this is, think broken noses. They're as common as daisies here.
Reacher is dropped off at a remote crossroads in Nebraska (we later learn there may have been more to this than mere coincidence) and walks into a situation. The local doctor is in the only bar for sixty miles, in a motel (the only one for sixty miles) and is pretty drunk. He gets a call to help one of his patients who's been beaten in what appears to be a domestic violence issue, refuses to attend, and then has to change his mind when Reacher's righteousness plugs in. Which conveniently unwinds all the rest of the intricate plot.
I found the violence almost too much at times (it often gets described in detail), and the revenge/retribution elements at the end of the book seemed to have an amoral aspect to them, however satisfying it may be seeing all the baddies gradually get their just desserts. Reacher is a vigilante kind of character - at least in this book. He seems to be able to act above the law without qualm because he knows he's right. And yes, the police in this story haven't done a very good job of sorting out the disappearance of a young girl many years before, nor do they have any great part to play in dealing with the present day situation. On top of this, Reacher aims to drag the local people up out of their victim status (they've been bullied for at least a couple of decades by a trio of brothers), and does, though it takes a good deal of doing.
In other hands this story might have been a piece of nonsense, but Child has absolute control over his material, whether it's describing a weapon or car in detail, or what a fight does to a human body, or detailing the bleakness of the winter Nebraska landscape and its isolated inhabitants. The dialogue is consistently good, and trying to stop at the end of any of the chapters is quite some task. Furthermore, there are some wonderful twists in the plot, mostly concerning who is driving whose car or vehicle at a particular time, and the consequences of doing so. The baddies dispose of minor baddies, and Reacher often gives them a helping hand surreptitiously. The finale is perhaps just a little contrived, but it certainly cleans things up for good.
I wasn't going to get another book in the series out of the library. But I have.

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