Monday, November 29, 2010

Lee Child, Worth Dying For



Author: Lee Child
Title: Worth Dying For
Publisher/format: Delacorte Press, cloth
ISBN: 978-0385344319

I really respect Lee Child for not churning out identical Reacher books each year. This author has taken care to develop his character in interesting ways, and he has also taken him through various psychological twists and turns. The penultimate Reacher book, 61 Hours, ended with a cliffhanger that I wasn't expecting; also, it featured a more broken, uncertain Reacher, and fabulous descriptions of a barren South Dakota winter. Child has stayed in the middle of the country for Worth Dying For: here, he places Reacher in a rural, agricultural area of Nebraska--not near the larger cities of Lincoln/Omaha but somewhere in the west (but not, I think, the Sandhills, because the main occupation of the people is farming).

Child does a great job with the NE landscape, its wideness, starkness, and flatness, and he describes a certain kind of Nebraska woman--older, strong, no-nonsense, modest, conscientious, full of integrity, reserved--perfectly. He describes many of the rest of his Nebraskans as quiet, fairly passive go-along-with-the-flow sorts. (Many Nebraskans do seem this way to others, but I believe that the truth is that once you find the part in the flow that they refuse to go along with [which does, in fact, exist, but which they will not tell you about until you accidentally stumble onto it], they will be shockingly stubborn and unmovable.) Even the Nebraskan evildoers in this book have a certain amount of integrity and civility despite their psychopathic, horrid selves. The culture of civility and refusing to make waves is important in NE, but as I hinted before, not everyone here is as passive as the folks in Reacher's town.

Also suffering from this passivity, sort of, are the ten Cornhusker (I think ten) football players Reacher beats up at one time or another in the course of the book. This is very amusing in some ways, but these could not have been Blackshirts. Note that Child is careful to call them "Cornhuskers," and that the trademarked name for the team is "Huskers." He did not want to run afoul of UNL/trademarking/etc.etc., I bet (or his publisher did not want him to).

Anyway, this book is interesting in that it's kind of humorous in an Elmore Leonard sort of a way--criminals and Reacher showing up at the same time and same place without realizing it; comic timing and quick cuts, etc.etc. The nature of the evildoers is kept uncertain until late on. It is very, very horrible what they are doing--which is pretty shocking to the reader because you've been set up, so to speak, by the Elmore Leonard-type timing/humor, and it kind of falls away very quickly into horribleness. There's something of a revenge scene at the end that shocked me a bit in that it has a civilian being Reacher-like.

Reacher is especially hard and distant and killer-like in this one--scary again, despite the fact that he begins the book injured and presumably psychologically battered. Not much is mentioned about the unresolved cliffhanger from 61 Hours; Child is in no hurry to tell us what happened, and when he does, it's almost off-handedly. This I liked.

Anyway, this was a very satisfactory installment in the Reacher series, and I liked it a lot. My big problem is this: there was no shopping expedition for Reacher. I don't care that there are no stores in the middle of the country. I really, really missed the shopping, and I hope he will get back to it. Those are absolutely my favorite parts of the books.

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