For someone who has to crank out a book every year, Lee Child continues to keep the quality high. Apparently this is the fourteenth Jack Reacher novel and all 14 have been optioned for film. I’m wondering what the holdup is — were they waiting for Kiefer Sutherland to get free? (He’s not big enough for Reacher, and Christian Bale is too handsome. Ciaran Hinds is too old but I always imagine Reacher as the younger version of him.)
The Reacher books have always moved with the swiftness of screenplays. You might even say that they walk a fine line between that stripped-down storytelling and the more elaborate description of a novel. Description in 61 Hours is confined mostly to weather, since the book takes place in a South Dakota winter. And despite some pop-psych phone conversations — which I assume are supposed to enlighten us as to why Reacher is the way he is: for me it was like art-historical analysis of Mt. Rushmore, entirely beside the point — and the usual quirky array of secondary characters, this novel is basically a race against time. Hence the title. The narrative kicks off exactly 61 hours before It Happens. And Child finishes each morsel of storytelling with an update: 10:45 a.m.: 43 hours to go.
It’s a weird way to structure the book and does nothing to heighten the suspense, because these books are always headlong gallops to the final confrontation with the bad guy — in this case a South American drug kingpin. In retrospect, it also feels weird that the Event is not something that was fixed in time at the beginning of the book. Not a ticking time bomb, just something that ended up happening. Yeah, it is a big deal, but you also see it coming a mile away.
So overall, this would not be my favorite Reacher novel. The plot felt very linear and the relationships among the characters are barely sketched in. I’m not looking for Henry James here, but I’d like the sense that these imaginary people would at least recognize each other on the street once the book was over.
When I last posted about Lee Child (Gone Tomorrow) I complained that he had no computer skills. I said I wanted him hacking into the Pentagon. Child got around that problem by having him call a mole in Washington. She’s the one who does the computer work for him; she’s the one who does the pop-psych on the phone… maybe in the next book they will actually meet up. Unless Reacher got incinerated at the end of this book, which would be too bad.