Killing Floor (Jack Reacher) Hardcover – Large Print, December 1, 2010
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"It was as distinctive as the most distinctive thing you could ever think of" -literally made me cringe
"We high-fived, whooped and hollered" - Once is bad enough, but when this is used 4 and 5 times, with "high-ten" as the only variation, it leaves me scanning pages trying to skip beyond the sophomoric attempt at a written bromance and get back into the actual story.
My hope is, with this being an early novel, the writer has matured through subsequent releases. I will be moving on to the next novel still hoping for a "WOW" moment; let's hope it comes with fewer cringe-worthy passages.
Well, guess I’ve been wrong because “Killing Floor” grabbed me from the first page. Ex-Army Military Policeman Jack Reacher is 6 foot 6 inches of bad mamma-jama and yes he’s damaged goods, wandering through Georgia when he’s arrested in a diner for a murder which he’s not committed. The story rockets along at a blistering pace with plenty of action, twists and turns, and excitement for 529 pages. I’ve already bought the next two in the 21 (and counting) book series.
In the forward to this paperback edition Child tells the readers his objective when creating the Reacher character was to have someone who was pretty much indestructible- a guy who does not lose and vanquishes every bad guy he meets. He wanted someone different from the flawed and vulnerable heroes in other books and find themselves in mortal jeopardy at every turn and in Jack Reacher he succeeds. Knowing the hero isn’t going to fail does not lessen the suspense and it’s fun watching how Reacher takes down the scum. It’s kind of like satisfaction you get watching a Jason Bourne movie.
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Killing Floor does present a less refined Reacher but also reminds us that some basic themes (town in the middle of nowhere, a secret, an attractive lady cop) started from book one.
For want of nothing better to do, Reacher stops off in a small town as a famous blues singer was reputed to have died there. Instead he finds himself arrested for murder and a town with too much money and a dirty secret. A personal element keeps Reacher there trying to find out what is going on while the body count mounts up. Reacher comes over as a dangerous man and a killer in this, not a man to cross and quite prepared to exist outside of the law. There are hints of the character he would develop into and also of the style that Lee Child would develop. This is a longish book at over 500 pages, so the abrupt style is not in place yet. The story works as do the twists and you can see why this series developed into something that has often been very special.
At first, I was mightily impressed. The hard-boiled prose spoke to me in a voice similar to Dashiell Hammett's, and the in-depth knowledge the writer possesses of his field really came to the fore. I think I enjoyed this book right until Reacher and Hubble come out of prison - those first passages, when nobody seems sure what's going on or who can be trusted, really worked well.
The problems began around that time, starting with a rather ridiculous plot device. Reacher, for whom nothing and nobody really seems to matter, discovers that the man whose murder he has been arrested for - SPOILER ALERT - is his brother. Now, the action all takes place in some tiny town in middle America, and Reacher only chose to stop off here at random during his peregrinations around the country; add to that the fact that the two brothers had barely spoken in years, and you have a particularly odd contrivance to work as motivation for what follows.
And then, the hard-boiled writing starts to work against Lee Child. It's not sufficient to support a book of this length. My favourite sentence in the whole book (and pretty much the reason I'm giving this two stars) came when Reacher takes his date out to dinner in a restaurant at the airport, and describes the place (or the food - I forget) with this: "It was OK." Thanks for that, Reacher/Child. Whole sections of the book could have been skipped if this is the language we're going to be treated to.
I'm not sure if I'd want to read another Reacher book after this one. I was entertained, more or less, as I read, but not to the extent that I would want to accompany Reacher on another of his adventures. I get the feeling that this is the prototype, and anything that follows will be something of a rehash - which might be an unfair analysis, but since I haven't read everything of Penelope Fitzgerald's or EM Forster's, I might prefer to invest my time there.
The books starts well. Reacher arrives in a small town in the middle of nowhere after walking in the rain for several hours and is eating breakfast in a diner. The police enter and he is arrested for a crime he didn't commit. Hauled off to the local police station he is thrown into a cell and the accusations begin to pile up against him. Eventually he is taken to the local prison for the weekend, but there appears to be a mix-up and he is placed in the lifers' wing, and from then on things really start to look bleak.
It's a page turner, but personally I thought it was way, way too long, probably by 200 pages or so, and the whole book is utterly unbelievable but remains strangely enjoyable. Having read two Reacher books now my suspicion is that they all follow the same template, as both of the ones I've read have had very similar story arcs, but I've got a few in my pile still to be read so I'll reserve judgement until I've worked my way through those.
I first came across him being interviewed by Stephen Sackur on BBC's Hardtalk. He was making a lot of sense about his role as an author whose duty is to serve his readers what they want. And so I decided to read his first book.
The short sentences take some time to get used to but you soon get into the rhythm. Jack Reacher is an interesting hero and Child has a very observant eye for detail in small town America. Combine this with a good action plot with a lot of twists and turns and you have a book that is a real page turner.
I finished this very quickly and was straight onto the second one - Die Trying - about a white separatist group in Montana. Again unputdownable! Will now take a break, and then onto no. 3 - Tripwire.
Everything about this book spoke to me; simple, punchy lines, a thrilling plot involving a small town conspiracy, mystery, and the biggest badass you could ever imagine. Like any kid growing up in the nineties, I'd spent hours upon hours watching big action blockbusters. My heroes were Schwarzenegger and Stallone. And Killing Floor gave me Jack Reacher, a literary badass to rival the two of them in brawn, and rival Sherlock in brains. Reacher was a badass in every sense of the word. I was hooked from the first sentence.
The plot is well-paced and the set pieces in particular are what I admire most in Child's writing. I found the action scene involving the swimming pool to be the most exhilirating scene in the book. It's breathless and terrifying, and you can practically hear the thunderstorm cracking and booming in the background as Reacher tears a team of guys apart. I like the simple prose. Child doesn't go out to write a beautiful novel by any means. He tells it to you straight. In the world of literary novels that I was being forced into by college, this refreshed me. Made me feel fantastic.
Everything about this story got to me. Right place, right time. I loved Reacher, his spirit, his love for music with soul in it, his ability to kick ass and his strong sense of right and wrong. The character is larger than life in both body and spirit. This book had me gripped from the beginning. I strongly recommend you pick it up. Just don't expect a literary masterpiece. Expect a great thriller story that's fun to read from beginning to end, with a character you will fall in love with, guaranteed.
Killing Floor starts with a nomadic former military cop walking through the rain to a diner in the southern state of Georgia. In the quiet town of Margrave he intends to find out what happened to the blues guitarist Blind Blake, who disappeared round there some time in the 30s. It soon turns out to be the wrong place at the wrong time, and he finds himself arrested and accused of a far more recent murder. Margrave is a perfect little town, with immaculate shop fronts, trimmed lawns and gleaming statues. Jack Reacher doesn't fit in there, but something far more unkempt is hiding beneath the glossy surface.
Jack Reacher was by far my favourite character in the book. From his interest in the blues to his sharp, no nonsense intelligence, he's hard not to like. He also isn't a typical hero. His justice can be ugly and savage. His response is about right and wrong, not the right thing to do.The other characters also feel real and gritty enough to engage with.
The finale is a riveting set piece and will have you turning the pages with gusto. Like most of the action scenes, it is excitingly written with vivid descriptions and well executed.
My only slight grumble with the story was that I was able to guess most of the twists and plot turns along the way. It was an enjoyable read, but it certainly never had me guessing as to where it was going or how things would end, or who might turn up even. I also didn't feel especially enamoured with Roscoe, Reacher's love interest in the book. But these are very mild grumbles, it is a very enjoyable read.
If you like classic action adventure thrillers, this is definitely a book for you. It deals with some pretty heavy scenes of murder and threat, so is certainly a book for adults. But I for one will certainly happily go on another adventure with Jack Reacher as a reader.
I probably read Book 2 and probably the whole series despite that - as I said, it's an easy read and helps to alleviate boredom when on the train or plane, but I wouldn't say it's the best book that I ever read and there's probably better books that fit my criteria of easy read/deduction/action elsewhere.
The line above sums it all up, a story of a real American hero, but without the 'slick element' tough and down to earth!
I think the reason this franchise has become so successful is its use of first-person narrative. It's escapism, and first-person allows the reader not just to explore the hero's thoughts, but to become the hero. Just an opinion. Four stars, rather than three, because a lot of thought went into it.
Or am I just being nostalgic?