61 Hours, by Lee Child

61 hours is a bit like a Pepparami (I’ve just eaten one).They taste great, but you want to hide the evidence so no-one knows you’ve eaten it. Or you tell people it’s a one-off and make sure they know you usually eat much better stuff.

But after a few pages of reading 61 Hours, you really won’t care what people think, because you’ll be having fun. It gives you what you’d expect from a Hollywood blockbuster: lots of action, fun locations and a hero you wouldn’t want to mess with.

I’d never read a Lee Child book before, so it was a surprise to read there are lots of Jack Reacher books out there. Bookshelves in Waterstones are crammed with them. Each one follows this bear–man, Reacher, as he travels across America , living like a hobo and getting himself in to trouble everywhere he goes. He is (of course) a highly trained army veteran, skilled in every possible art of warfare, hand to hand combat and intelligence. He even has a CV at the beginning of the book telling you this. (That’s all the back story you need.)

Like walking in on an episode of East Enders, it takes five minutes to get to grips with the back story- and then it’s full steam ahead.  But that’s mainly because character isn’t what’s important here. It’s all about the guns, head bashing, guns and car chases.

Child writes with a sly charm. You never feel he takes the situations too seriously; as though he has decided that Jack Reacher is indestructible, so he’s experimenting with what he can throw at him and get away with.

This story sees Reacher’s bus crashes on an icy road in a small Dakota town as the temperature starts to plummet. He helps the police look after the victims but…a Mexican midget drug dealer with lots of money and an eye on a secret stash of loot hidden in the mountains is about to move in. That’s right-a Mexican midget. So, the killings start, Reacher limbers up, the action begins.

Halfway through I did get a little bored when the action slowed, but Child has a knack for creating good action set pieces, so the boredom never lasts for long. Before your eye starts to wander from the page, there is a car chase or explosion, or assassination that reels you back in.

But, had I known it would end with a ‘read the new book to see how he gets away,’ I might not have bothered.  After spending a couple of hours building up to a big showdown, I’d at least expect a final act, but no.

So, if I want to find out what the hell happened to him, I’ll have to buy the next book. But now that I’ve finished it, I’ve almost forgotten it anyway, so I probably won’t bother.

It’s a Pepparami; tasty but not that good for you. It’s fun, but offers nothing more than a snack.

And he really should finish his books before they’re published. Grrr.

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