61 Hours by Lee Child

61 Hours by Lee ChildI’ve come to a realization about Jack Reacher. He isn’t a drifter wandering around the country solving mysteries. He’s a comic book super hero. He shows up in small towns that have a problem that needs Reacher’s special brand of justice to fix. Then he fixes them. That’s pretty much how these things work.

Small town America is all dealing with corrupt local thugs and the locals are all too scared to try anything. Gangsters are everywhere and Mexicans are all drug lords.

If you can accept these things then a Lee Child book will go down like bacon wrapped tater-tots (which go down pretty easy, in my experience — except the ball of grease that settles in your stomach afterward). There isn’t a problem in America that Jack Reacher can’t punch his way out of.

61 Hours is a super hero book. Jack Reacher finds himself stranded in a small town in South Dakota and charms his way into the police force, solves a murder by looking at a single picture, and uncovers buried government secrets by making a few phone calls to a phone number he just guessed.

There is a mystery element but the mystery part of it is obvious from the instant it’s introduced. When Reacher finally figures it out then he cleans up pretty quickly. I feel like I can’t really complain much about this book without becoming guilty of the same kind of repetitive formula that I’m accusing this book of following. Reacher makes enormous leaps of logic to figure things out when a simpler, more obvious answer is right in front of him. He always knows what people are going to do down to the second and how long they think about hard decisions. He randomly guesses numbers and he’s always right.

Instead I want to talk about why I liked this book. Lee Child has cultivated Jack Reacher as a character who always figures things out. He’s always on top and he never loses. So when things take a turn for the worst in this book and people start dying and Reacher starts losing, then it actually becomes almost terrifying. Of the Jack Reacher books I’ve read the best ones are the ones that break the formula. There’s the one that takes place in the past when he’s still an MP, the one where all his old buddies get together to help him find out who is hunting them down. All the others are just Reacher-saves-a-small-town-with-judicious-use-of-his-fists type of formulas. This one looks like that from a distance. It isn’t.

It isn’t a heart aching treatise on the depth of a human soul, either. It’s still a Jack Reacher novel where good guys are good (enough) and bad guys shoot old ladies and kidnap children and get rich selling meth.

This is one of the good ones. If you’re picky about the quality of what you read then Lee Child isn’t even on your radar. If you just want a story about a guy helping some folks out by destroying a tyrannical drug lord, with HIS BARE HANDS. Look no further.

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