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Sunday, April 18, 2010

61 Hours. Lee Child. Bantam Press (2010).

This is a gripping thriller with a very clever set up and first rate execution. Jack Reacher is trapped in the South Dakota town of Bolton due to a bus accident and severe cold weather. The police in Bolton have a equally severe problem, there is a large drug running organisation camped on the outskirts of the town on an abandoned military base. The leader of the biker gang running the drug operation is in the local prison and there is an unimpeachable witness to his doing a significant drug deal in the town. The police need to keep the biker bottled up and the witness alive, while unaware that larger and very dangerous forces are also have a very time sensitive plan that include the witness and the base. Jack Reacher is a complicating factor for everyone. The plot is superbly constructed, the action is fast and harsh, the reveals are cunning paced and the conclusion devious and forceful.
Jack Reacher is a non-costumed superhero, willingly adrift in the world and with a very strong dislike of those who put the world to wrong. He is a very stripped down character, his background in the Military Police is expertly used to explain his skills and attitude as well as giving him some depth. The rest of the cast are more developed, they have more personal and physical baggage and they contrast nicely with Reacher. The major active villain in the book is thoroughly despicable, he is very competent, ruthless and experienced enough to be a credible threat to Reacher and to put some genuine momentum into the story.
This is a brilliantly focused book, all the elements are designed to fit into the plot, exploit and extend the tension and propel the cast up to the final confrontation. It does this without ever being crudely mechanical, the cast are given enough time and space to emerge as individuals and the action is staged brilliantly so it involves the cast. Lee Child uses a countdown throughout the book, counting down 61 hours, it could be either hokey or intrusive, it is in fact a wonderful ratcheting up of tension as the likely objects of the countdown appear and recede. Excellent work by a writer in complete control of his material, great reading.

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