Barry's Reviews > Worth Dying For

Worth Dying For by Lee Child
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Jan 07, 12

bookshelves: american, crime-fiction
Read in January, 2012

Lee 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.
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Jane Stewart I’m glad you mentioned the Tom Cruise problem. I am so disappointed with that. Tom is too pretty, short, and small. Part of Reacher’s fun is his size - with his ham-sized hands. I can’t think of any current actor who would fit, but Patrick Swayze might have. That was a great idea. So sad we don’t have him. You’d think in this world of billions, they could find someone the right size and look to pull it off. The movie industry should take a chance like Stallone did. He insisted on playing the lead with his first Rocky movie.


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