After seeing No Country for Old Men, I feel that I’m in Cormac McCarthy country rather than James Lee Burke country. Though, after Rain Gods and FeastAfter seeing No Country for Old Men, I feel that I’m in Cormac McCarthy country rather than James Lee Burke country. Though, after Rain Gods and Feast Day of Fools, West Texas is rapidly becoming Burke Territory. Burke Territory and McCarthy Country are definitely the same neighbourhood. I find it impossible not to imagine Sheriff Hackberry Holland, a Burke Territory lawman, as Tommy Lee Jones, particularly since faces of Tommy Lee and James Lee seem to be merging. Obviously, the Hackberry Holland series has a different vibe than the Dave Robicheaux series set in Louisiana. But it is still Burke and still good....more
Premise is better than the execution - or maybe the subject matter. After umpteen dozen (million?) books about Nazi Germany, a fresh approach sounds ePremise is better than the execution - or maybe the subject matter. After umpteen dozen (million?) books about Nazi Germany, a fresh approach sounds enticing.
Erik Larsen tells the story from the viewpoint of William Dodd, the American Ambassador to Germany, and his family, or more accurately, Dodd’s flighty daughter, Martha. “Flighty” is a kind euphemism for a woman of countless affairs and little substance. It is really a shame that her salad days were between the wars; she would be a natural for reality TV. Think a dumber Kardashian. Larsen, though, is enthralled. This surprises me. I understand how the many men in her life could be enticed but Larsen? I surmise that after researching the extraordinarily dull and stuffy Ambassador Dodd, Martha stood out as a shot of vivid colour.
Larsen is so beguiled by Martha that he tends to gloss over the interesting characters that make only a fleet appearance on stage. This is not Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead”, it’s “Martha! My three-way with Rosie and Guildy!” ...more
Lee Child populates these inhospitable wastelands with simple but decent country yokels dominated by people bent mean by the hellish weather. Oops, scLee Child populates these inhospitable wastelands with simple but decent country yokels dominated by people bent mean by the hellish weather. Oops, scratch that. That’s from my review of 61 Hours, the first part the saga. Worth Dying For occurs days after the end of 61 Hours, just enough time for Reacher to hitchhike 140 miles to the middle of desolate nowhere. But it’s a balmy, desolate nowhere. Yessiree, after Reacher stared down relentless cold, blizzards, and ice, he’s now in balmy Nebraska. In 61 Hours, poor ol’ South Dakota was bedevilled with temperatures of -30; Nebraska is warm enough to whistle down the highway with the top down.
So Reacher’s in utopia after escaping the hellhole they call South Dakota? Not quite. Let’s cue up Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska for ambience. Child’s Nebraska is inhospitable wastelands with simple but decent country yokels dominated by people bent mean by the isolation.
I suspect the pace caught up with Child. Worth Dying For was released a scant six months after 61 Hours and his research is lacking. Typically we’re regaled with trivia and math calculations (Reacher is fond of prime numbers) to assure us that our hero is not just a hard man – he’s a thinking, observant hard man.
If only we could turn back the clock 20 years, when Patrick Swayze was alive. It would solve one the biggest problems of 2011 – Tom Cruise is being cast as Reacher. Film aficionados have noted that Mr. Cruise is not 6’ 5”, always a salient point in the Reacher novels. Swayze could easily reprise his role in Roadhouse.
Of course, if we could reverse the clock, we could go back to 1960. Back then, the good guys weren’t nearly as efficient. It took seven guys what Reacher can easily do by himself. The Magnificent Seven? I don’t think, so. Compared to Reacher, they’re The Slacker Seven. Still if it were 1960, we have a younger Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, or James Coburn and that would solve that pesky Tom Cruise problem nicely.
I don’t think a thriller needs to be precise. Enjoy the ride. Sometimes, though, mistakes are more than just quibbles. He mentions crossing the border just south of Medicine Hat, Alberta, “due north” of North Platte, Nebraska. Due north would be southwest Manitoba. The province of Saskatchewan is between the two. In American terms, that’s like saying that Buffalo is due north of Chicago. So he confuses Buffalo with Chicago, who cares? It’s just that Child specifically mentions it a couple of times and ties in the fact that sunrise would be later at the higher latitude. These are the type of facts that Reacher would use to break the case. We’re trained to like Reacher to note these salient facts. But these “salient facts” are wrong and disconcerting.
Then again, maybe the novel isn’t supposed to make a lot of sense. The bad guys are smuggling cargo into the U.S. from the port of Vancouver and shipping it out via western Nebraska. Our baddies aren’t the brightest lot around but they’ve been doing this for decades and most of their cargo ends up in Las Vegas. They’ve had years to figure out that they don’t need to do a 3,000 mile detour through Nebraska – it would be a hell of lot quicker and cheaper to run 1,200 miles straight from Vancouver to Vegas.
I think Lee Child has tested his limits and found that he can’t rip off a novel in only six months. Skipping the work has hurt him – this is not one of his best efforts. ...more
Jack Reacher is a wuss! And Lee Child watched Fargo! Our trusty hero is west of the Mississippi again – which means that Lee Child has to describe a pJack Reacher is a wuss! And Lee Child watched Fargo! Our trusty hero is west of the Mississippi again – which means that Lee Child has to describe a place that he can’t possibly fathom. This novel, set in frozen South Dakota, is the meteorological flip-side of the searing heat of west Texas in Echo Burning. As true Englishman in New York, he populates these inhospitable wastelands with simple but decent country yokels dominated by people bent mean by the hellish weather.
The frozen hell of South Dakota is so bad that Reacher, the normally invincible man-robot, succumbs to the cold. He whines and bitches throughout the novel like a snivelling little brat. Poor Reacher had walk two miles in -30 cold and damn near died. Once he got inside, he “hugged himself in agony” and his bones “felt like they were all broken and crushed”, even though he was well-clad in a heavy Highway Patrolman’s overcoat. Jack Reacher is a wuss.
Even though I’ve bashed Reacher, I still like the series. Literature, it ain’t but I don’t care. I think we’re supposed to read the book fast enough not to pay attention to details, but when Child finds himself on unfamiliar grounds, clichés don’t just abound, they annoy. Since Child is convinced nada happens in the Dakotas, we get same ol’ Fargo tableau over and over. Now I loved Fargo, but it shouldn’t be your primary source of information.
Normally a cartoon character like Plato, the evil Mexican drug lord, would make me winch at its stupidity but he was a welcome change from the relentless descriptions of the snow and cold. Child obviously feels the sillier the better – not only is Plato ridiculously sadistic but he also displays jewellery and paintings from his pawn shops in his lair, not because likes them, but as trophies. “He didn’t much care for art. Not his thing. Each canvas was a souvenir, that was all, of a ruined life.” Every item pawned meant that someone gave up their most cherished possessions for drugs – his drugs. Umm, really? ...more
Sigh. There’s always something. I happily plough through the books but … Hope and Despair? These are the names of two Colorado towns next to each otheSigh. There’s always something. I happily plough through the books but … Hope and Despair? These are the names of two Colorado towns next to each other. Guess which one is an awful, joyless company town run by a miserly and miserable Christian fanatic.
Oh, and guess which town has the cute, smart, and able cop that Reacher charms into helping him.
Subtlety has never been a strong point of the series. Acceptable, I suppose, given the nature of the books. But there has to be a limit to the sheer obviousness of it all.
I groaned a bit when saw the book was set west of the Mississippi. Lee Child strikes me as a true Englishman living in New York. He really doesn’t understand the mentality of the western states and relies on cartoons for his characterizations.
Then again, we’re not reading for characterizations. Just zip through the book – it’s still an enjoyable read. ...more