Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Killing Floor (Jack Reacher #1) / Lee Child

Some of my favorite moments come from picking up a book or movie with low to no expectations and finding it far more entertaining than I thought I'd be. There's just something very gratifying about experiences like that, the ones that require little investment and yet yield a high rate of a return. It's what happened to me with the third movie in The Fast and the Furious franchise, Tokyo Drift (DVD FAST — hey, don't knock it 'til you've tried it!) and, more recently, Lee Child's Killing Floor (FIC CHILD).

This book, published in 1997, is the first in the bestselling Jack Reacher series. Reacher, an ex-military cop who drifts from town to town, inevitably finds trouble. These scenarios let us see our imposing, 6-foot 5-inch laconic protagonist at his best by showcasing his skills as both an operator and a detective. It's thrilling to follow a character who certainly knows how to handle himself, and who doesn't shirk from danger or mystery. He doesn't necessarily go looking for either of them — they just seem to find him.

Lee Child, the pen name for British writer Jim Grant, spent nearly 20 years as a writer in the television industry before corporate restructuring left him without a job. Child's reaction? To buy $6 worth of pen and paper and sit down and write a novel. Fourteen years later, he's still at it.

Killing Floor introduces us to the 36-year-old Reacher, who's just six months out of the Army. He's been wandering American's highways and byways as a self-described hobo since then. On a whim, he finds himself in the deceptively picturesque town of Margrave, Ga. From the minute he sits down in the town's lone diner, things go rapidly downhill for him. A murder — extremely rare for these parts — took place the night before, and Reacher's the easy suspect. The authorities welcome him by putting him in cuffs and pulling him in for questioning.
I thought: should I be worried? I was under arrest. In a town where I'd never been before. Apparently for murder. But I knew two things. First, they couldn't prove something had happened if it hadn't happened. And second, I hadn't killed anybody.

Not in their town, and not for a long time anyway.

Unfortunately for Reacher, but lucky for action-junkie readers, Killing Floor ratchets him back into the fray. A swath of bodies follows, some by the bad guys' hands and others by Reacher's as he struggles to stay alive while uncovering the town's secrets.

His motivations rely too much on coincidence but if you're willing to set aside your skepticism, the ride will keep you riveted. Child does a great job of pacing the story in a deliberate way, imbuing it with a sense of urgency by mixing slower scenes with moments of explosive action. The brutality of the violence took me by surprise — we're talking Girl-with-the-Dragon-Tattoo-level graphic brutality, so don't expect this to be a cozy mystery.

Once you get over the bloodshed, however, you'll see that Reacher's a pretty likable guy, deadly efficiency aside. He just wants to be left alone to do his own thing. For a loner, he certainly has surprisingly good people skills. He finds partners in two of the officers of the Margrave P.D. and together, the trio race against the clock to thwart the story's antagonists.

As successful as Child has been with the Jack Reacher series, it's no surprise that the character's been picked up for an impending movie. No. 9, One Shot is in development and slated for release in 2013.

The actor playing Reacher? Tom Cruise. Yikes. For now, I think I'll just stick to the books. Lucky for me, there are 15 more of them.


Cozy in Texas said...

This sounds like a great read. I haven't heard of this author before.

Vivi said...

I definitely think it's at least worth a try! Thanks for visiting our blog, Ann.