Sunday, September 2, 2012

Killing Floor by Lee Child

I used to peel through adult hard-boiled detective stories like oranges before entering the children's lit world. Now my hard-boiled detectives come in the form of geckos and cuteness such as Chet Gecko and Nate the Great. Ruby Redfort reminded me of what I was missing so when my friend, Angela, plopped this book with  tough-guy Jack Reacher on my desk and said in her down-under accent, "Yah gonna love Jack," I was ready for some fast-paced escapism. Giddy-up Ange. Jack is a hoot.

Jack Reacher does not belong to any one place. He has no commitments. No permanent job. No permanent address. No permanent girlfriend. He grew up with his brother as a military brat in more countries than he can remember (well he can, but I can't). School meant making friends every 6 months.His adult career was spent working as a military policeman which meant his arrests were with military lawbreakers. Those lawbreakers were trained killers such as Rangers, Green Berets, and Marines. Men like Jack had to be trained better than your average policeman. This makes Jack "Better with weapons. Better unarmed."  However, Jack's had it with bureaucracies.  He shook the dust off his police boots, hit the road, and didn't look back.

Jack uses music as a way to deal with his situations or control his emotions. The author weaves different types of songs throughout the entire book. I didn't know half of them but enjoyed the connection. Hit the Road Jack, kept tinging in my head but Lee Child never threw that one in the mix. I suppose that's too corny. Or uncool. Jack's left his murky, dark past behind and is roaming the countryside with no responsibilities or commitments. He washes his clothes by tossing out the old ones every four days and he never stays in any one place too long.

When Jack stumbles into the town of Margrave he is accused of murder and sucked into an investigation he has no intention of solving. He's left that world behind. When he discovers he knows the murder victim, He makes a 180; now he's out for blood and revenge. He wants justice and is motivated by loyalty to the dead man. Jack will stand up for what's right or best for a community but he won't go by the book anymore. He kills people with the detachment of someone who has spent too much time in combat and he doesn't have much internal dialogue or conflict about it afterwards. He's a trained lethal weapon and the body count in this novel is close to a dozen people. He stalks the bad guys just as they stalk him. He turns the tables and can kill a man by knife, rifle, crushing his larynx or breaking his neck to name a few. He has no problems with poking out eyes, head-butting, or using any means to stop the bad guys. No remorse for Jack. Just justice. Even if justice is taken into his own hands.

The writing didn't transport or delight me like some prose souffle... but the action, strong characters, and plot twists did. I was flipping through the pages in quick succession like a hyperactive librarian. Or someone wanting to escape from the humdrum of everyday routines. It's great being able to pretend that  I'm something that I'm not in the hero archetype found in the character of Jack. For a brief moment I am brilliant, tough, wise-cracking, tall (over 6 feet), detailed, have an awesome memory, can wield a weapon of any kind, and never make mistakes or if I do I can fix them. I wrote that sentence right after figuring out I had been using my inhaler upside down for the last three months - a lot more juice squirts out of that puppy when it's held upright... Jack Reacher would NEVER do anything so stupid. He'd find some cool way to take his meds. I'm sure a  karate-chop would be involved. Or he'd use the inhaler for target practice.

The murders are quite grisly in the book with nasty villains, plenty of good guys, and plenty of not-so-sure if they are good or bad guys. Jack becomes attracted to another woman in the novel but their relationship is mostly physical. I liked this female character. She's strong-minded and smart. There's only one macho scene where she makes Jack promise to protect her. I thought it was out of character because I didn't think one policeman would ask another policeman to make such an impossible promise, but I could be wrong and she is in a small town where violent crime is nil. She just struck me as too self-sufficient. I did see how the author used it to advance the plot at the end - the author couldn't exactly have the character leave town and live with a relative. If I get more specific I'll give away the ending. The other plot twist that seemed somewhat thin was how Jack found Hubble. I liked the deduction but in actuality it was a bit of a stretch. Still fun because it showed how unbelievably smart Jack was. Maybe a little too unbelievable, but still fun. Just like him killing all those bad guys.

When I get tired of reading Ace Lacewing, Bug Detective and Max Minnow (Wiggle Eyes) in Mystery in Bugtown, I know who what to reach for... Jack Reacher. Thanks, Ange

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