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Bookends: In which we find out what made Jack Reacher hit the road December 29, 2013

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: In which we find out what made Jack Reacher hit the road

By Dan Davidson

June 12, 2013

– 1006 words –

The AffairThe Affair

By Lee Child


608 pages



I was worried. Would I be able to read a Jack Reacher novel once I had seen the Tom Cruise movie? Tom was too short and not bulky enough to play the part, but it turned out that he managed to sell the role on attitude and by letting his physical flaws show to a greater extent. The movie was based on the book One Shot, which, while it had a fair amount of action in it, stressed Reacher’s military police investigative skills.

See, there’s my segue into The Affair, which is all about Reacher as a military cop.

Somewhere Child must have a timeline chart for the Reacher novels, but they are being presented to us in no particular order. We’ve seen him as a vagabond and we’ve seen him in the Army. In this book we get the pivot point, Reacher’s last case, the one that decides him he needs to quit.

Child must also make definite decisions about how to tell these stories. Some stories are third person narratives, which allow him to use multiple viewpoints and spend some time with the bad guys, as he did in One Shot.

The Affair is a first person narrative, set in 1997, and told almost as if Reacher is talking to someone, telling us how it all began. The advantage, for what is not really a complicated story, is that we only know what he knows when he knows it, and we get the inside track on all his misgivings.

Reacher is sent to be the undercover cop in Carter Crossing, Mississippi. There has been a murder, and there’s a possible connection to the military base there. The base is low profile because it is the place from which two units are rotating back and forth from the problems in Kosovo. Reacher’s task is to be back up for the official investigator who has been sent to check out the base.

It is made very clear to both men that they are supposed to discover that this is a civilian problem. Reacher has never been one to cover the Army’s backside, as we know from the background events in One Shot, so he’s not entirely happy with this assignment. He goes a former soldier, hitchhiking, or taking the bus, arriving with nothing by a toothbrush and enough cash for cheap lodgings, discarding his dirty clothes for fresh ones when he needs to. We know we’re looking at exactly the pattern he will follow when he leaves the army.

The excuse he gives for leaving is partly true. It’s a big country. He grew up and served in bases all over the world and hardly knows the place where he is a citizen, so he figured it was time to find out more about it.

The cover lasts barely a few hours. It turn out that Sheriff Elizabeth Deveraux is an ex-Marine and she spots him right away. Deveraux is good at her job, but not trained to it the way Reacher is, and after they tip-toe around each other for a while, she decides to treat him as an ally in the case, which, it turns out, actually involves the deaths of three local beauties, not just one. A journalist and a 16 year old boy get added to the list as the story grows, and the mother of the boy and one of the young women suicides on the nearby railway track in her grief

It’s a mess, for sure, and someone is trying to set up Deveraux as the perp, while covering for some member of one of the two squads on the base. For Reacher this is made more complicated by his attraction to the Sheriff and hers for him. I’d check back through the Reacher novels I’ve read to see if there’s more of less sex depending on the narrative voice, but I can’t.

Lee Child is one of the few authors I have read only in e-book editions. This points up one of the flaws of this medium. My early copies were all through either Fictionwise or E-Reader, which eventually joined together and then were scooped by Barnes/Noble. Those earlier files can only be opened with the original software, and that is no longer available. That never happens with real books.

Reacher has to deal with a bunch of local roughnecks who don’t like soldiers and are looking for an excuse to pick a fight. Their mistake. Then there’s a group of out of state private militia who someone in a high place has assigned the highly illegal task of guarding the base perimeter – hence the two additional murders. Reacher has to track them down and chase them away.

Then, it appears that there’s a fairly high level person back at the Pentagon who is prepared to kill Reacher in order to keep him from finding out and revealing what has really been happening in Carter Crossing.

It is, in fact, left to Reacher to mete out justice for all the nastiness that has been going on, and he does so in a direct and final manner, totally illegal, but thoroughly deserved.

All through the book you can see him coming to the conclusion that he reaches at the end, when he mails in his resignation and leaves the service.

“I picked a road at random, and I put one foot on the curb and one in the traffic lane, and I stuck out my thumb.”

But wait, as the commercials always say, there’s more. Included in this book is a short story that shows you just how early the teenage Jack Reacher displayed an aptitude for detection and for violence. It’s not a long story, set in Japan, but it hits all the important points and it’s rather fun instead of being about life and death.






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