Wednesday, November 10, 2010

55. The Enemy by Lee Child

I was at the local thrift store dropping off some old pants and household items and decided that I could risk taking a look at their book section, which has actually been quite fruitful in the last year or so. Some unknown volunteer has taken to organizing the books and they are doing a great job. Hats off to that person. So rare to find someone who actually makes an effort to organize things these days. Everybody seems to think that they can just leave everything in a big pile and have google sort it out for them or something. Anyways, I found an old Donald Hamilton. I also picked up this Lee Child book. I quite enjoyed Gone Tomorrow and was looking for something easy to digest that I could get sucked into. Well mission accomplished. I tore through this thick book.

This time we go a bit farther back into Reacher's career, where he is an MP, actually the head MP in a large army base in North Carolina in 1990. He had been in Panama dealing with the Noriega situation, but suddenly got moved. He's army all his life and used to simply following orders (though seems to have no problem breaking them as well). Furthermore, he has a philosophy of just living life as it is presented to him. It's part of what makes him such a compelling character. He is the fantasy rogue male with the skills to handle any situation, so he has no need to plan, put aside savings, worry about loneliness, etc.

The story starts out with a General found dead of a heart attack in a seedy hotel near the base. The investigation gets more and more complicated and ultimately reveals a massive conspiracy. Most of the book is on the ground investigation, detailed and enjoyable. But the overall plot is some big-picture, end of the cold war, internal military politics stuff. It's just on the right side of being implausible, but totally acceptable because of all the stuff that Reacher is dealing with is well thought out and engaging. This is detailed, manly stuff with sprinklings of gun and vehicle porn (and a two-page discussion on a custom-made crowbar that I took particular pleasure in). In Gone Tomorrow, Reacher is a civilian and most of the action takes place in NYC, where he has all kinds of urban skills, including all the tricks for staying for free in fancy hotels. Here, money is an issue and when he goes AWOL he has to count his pennies. I guess he continues to add to his skillset.

Most of the books in this market—the thick, manly books sold at airports, with abstract, embossed, mainly black covers—are crap these days. They tend to be overly written and basically unintelligent. They often feature excessive serial-killerism. Lee Child's Reacher novels (at least the two I have read so far) are an exception, good escapist stuff but not insulting to the reader's intelligence. They are sparsely written and the good stuff (the ass-kicking, the technical details, the wise-cracking superiority over lesser bosses) is dealt out in just the right proportions to keep this manly reader quite satisfied.

1 comment:

Nick Jones (Louis XIV, the Sun King) said...

Interesting review. I've resisted Lee Child up to now, but the other day I caved and bought an -- actually very scarce -- UK book club omnibus of his first two Reacher novels, Killing Floor and Die Trying. It should turn up in a day or two.