It struck me while reading 61 Hours that the Reacher series is the literary equivalent of those wandering hero TV shows that we don’t seem to have any more, like Route 66, The Incredible Hulk, Knight Rider, and even Highway to Heaven — hero wanders into a town, sees some sort of injustice afoot, takes it upon himself (and/or is forced to) confront the source of the injustice, cleans up town and leaves. I started off thinking about the Hulk, but expanded it a bit the further I got in the book. Reacher is both Banner and the monster (don’t make Reacher angry, you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry). I think I’m going to start listening to “The Lonely Man Theme” during the last chapter of all future Reacher books.
Yeah, that’s a bit rambling, sorry. But I think the same impulse that kept people coming back to those shows is what brings us to Reacher. The outsider who saves the day and moves on. What we might be powerless to see, or incapable of doing — he can, with no fear of consequences. There’s something totemic about that.
That’s exactly what 61 Hours promises and delivers. The villian was a bit more villainous than some (but he’s not the worst human being Reacher’s faced off with, just the worst lately), the mystery’s a bit of a gimme –but no one’s ever confused Reacher with Nero Wolfe, and it’s easy to see why Reacher doesn’t put the pieces together as early as the reader does. It’s possible that this is the least violent novel in the series, but you know that violence is on the way –and when it arrives, Child makes every bullet and hit count.
The title/hook is something different for Child. He basically starts a countdown at the end of the first chapter — 61 hours until something’s going to happen. And then we get frequent updates — “Fifty-four hours to go”, “Thirty-one hours until it starts”, and that sort of thing (not real quotations, just examples). Really ratchets up the tension — I can’t imagine it’d work more than once, but it really worked well this time.
Frequently, the relationships that Reacher develops/finds with people are the weak areas of the book, but Child gives us three strong ones this time around — the Deputy Chief of a small police department who knows enough to see that Reacher is a resource, the spunky elderly woman who’s the target of Big Bad, and the Major sitting in Reacher’s old desk at his old command. With each of them we see different facets of our hero at work — and seeing both what they respond to in Reacher, and what he is drawn to in them helps flesh out all four characters, but Reacher more than the rest. I’m not sure we learn a lot more about our favorite wandering ex-MP through this, but we know it better.
61 Hours is one more piece of evidence proving that Lee Child is one of the (if not the) best, the most consistent writers working today. Long live the king.