It was in 2012, when the Tom Cruise movie “Jack Reacher” arrived in cinemas, that I came to know of the eponymous character and his book series, written by British author Lee Child. A bit of googling told me that the character first showed up in 1997 in Child’s and Reacher’s debut novel, “Killing Floor”, although the book wasn’t the first one chronologically. The book won the Anthony award and Barry award for best first novel. So when I decided to start the series, this book turned out to be the logical choice. Start where the author started, right? OK, enough with the background, here’s the review.
Jack Reacher is in the wrong place at the wrong time, or is it the right time? Former US army Military Policeman Reacher, a 6’5″, 200-pound hunk, gets down one night,on a whim, from a Greyhound bus near a town called Margrave in Georgia, ostensibly to find something about 20’s Blues singer Blind Blake. But instead, he gets arrested while having lunch at a diner’s next day, a Friday. A dead body of a person, who was shot in the face and brutally kicked afterwards, is found near a warehouse in town and eyewitness account puts Reacher at the scene of the crime. Reacher knows, and tells the cops as much, that he wasn’t even present in Margrave at the time of the crime. He is shifted to the local prison in the holding cells, along with a local banker, Paul Hubble, whose name crops up during the investigation. Reacher knows he will be free by Monday, since travel records will prove his alibi. He resents having to waste his weekend in a jail. Now all he wants to do is to get out free and get away from Margrave, carrying on his drifter lifestyle. But we know, and he should have known better, that that wasn’t going to happen (The town is exceptionally clean and well-maintained, well-heeled too, despite there being little of note as far as business is concerned. That’s always a red flag as far as seedy plot points are concerned). And so it is after the dead person turns out to be someone from Reacher’s past. Another body is discovered near the first one. To top it all, the police chief and his wife are brutally murdered and dismembered in their house on Sunday. Now Reacher has until the coming Sunday to solve the crimes and bring the culprits to justice, with the help of two local cops, Chief of detectives Finlay and Officer Roscoe, the latter of which is the female lead of the book.
I would be lying if I said that the premise didn’t seem interesting to me. It was pretty intriguing actually. Mr. Child has written the book in a pretty detailed manner, so that you get to understand each and every thing that’s happening. Sometimes, that helps to clarify the plot but other times, it slows down the pace a bit. I wouldn’t call it lethargic by any means, but the book, although very interesting, is no page turner. That said, Mr. Child fleshes out Jack Reacher’s character, ideals and motivations pretty clearly. Reacher isn’t very high on morals like honour and glory and his life in army has given him enough skills and experiences to take out the toughest of antagonists, usually with a ominous foretelling (to the reader) of the said villain’s fate. Reacher doesn’t get very emotional either, although once in a while, he can shed some tears too. All in all, he’s a no-nonsense killing machine who doesn’t feel any remorse after putting down the bad guys through his very hands-on approach.
The book’s underlying suspense and conspiracy have been well concealed by Mr. Child, although here and there, if you look closely, there are some giveaways as to who all could be in on the crime. Written in a first person narrative structure, the book reads like a modern Western and in hindsight, some of the plot beats do help in creating such an atmosphere. The outlaw here is our hero, Jack Reacher, fighting to clear his name, and giving blunt dialogues and commentary simultaneously while not actually being very chatty. While reading, I kept getting mental images of Tom Cruise doing the various acts of Reacher and speaking the dialogues in his style. Maybe that’s a by-product of having watched the character’s movie before reading the book, although I’m pretty sure I’m not the first person to have experienced such a thing. Killing Floor is an interesting read but it wouldn’t exactly be at the top of my recommendations.
Trivia : For the uninitiated, Lee Child’s actual name is Jim Grant. More on that here.
Rating : 3.5/5.
P.S. – If you have read the book, or other books in the series, kindly share your thoughts in the comments section.