Sunday, May 16, 2010

Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child

Every day booksellers are faced with the question, "What do you recommend?"  We have a routine for getting to the heart of what the customer wants us to recommend, even when the route he makes us take to get to that answer is circuitous.  Sometimes, though, the customer is no help, and the well-prepared bookseller just has to have a couple of go-to authors, ones that never seem to fail. For me that never-fail author is Lee Child.  

Child's Jack Reacher is a drifter, retired army, who moves about the country with the clothes on his back and a clip-together toothbrush in his pocket; each novel begins with Reacher either coming into or just fixing to leave a town. Jack Reacher is often wrong but always sure of himself.  He's adaptable, flexible, quick to come up with a theory or a plan and equally quick to change direction when he's on the wrong track. Reacher is tall and good looking, in a way that is attractive to women and non-threatening to men. He doesn't enjoy killing, but when he has to he does it efficiently and with a minimum of remorse. Jack Reacher is a bad-ass.

Gone Tomorrow, set in New York, opens with a thrilling, heart-stoppingly tense middle-of-the-night subway ride; the tension set in motion by the events on the train will not be relieved until the end of the book. Reacher--who did some of his military service in the Middle East--while taking stock of his fellow late night subway riders notices that one of them, a young American woman, is exhibiting all of the classic tells of a suicide bomber.  After running carefully through the list in his head to make sure, he approaches her to attempt to talk her down. As it turns out, however, it is not a bomb she is cradling protectively inside the bag on her lap, but a gun, which she takes out and uses to fatally shoot herself.  

Why?  The young woman, Susan Marks, is a low-level clerk in the Pentagon Human Resources department, with no real access to important information of any kind.  So why is a group of Feds so secret they don't carry badges or i.d. interested in her?  And why are the Russians, or Ukrainians, or maybe Afghanis, interested?  How is a U.S. Senator with presidential aspirations involved?  

The plot is satisfyingly convoluted, involving top secret Delta Force activity in Afghanistan in the 80s, cover-ups in the 90s and beyond, and some nasty, nasty terrorists.  Jack Reacher, stud that he is, will be shot up--twice--with a tranquilizer dart, and still get the best of his captors.  The police will be against him, then with him, then against him…and when the end comes, the carnage is epic and the revealed secrets both more and less than expected.

Gone Tomorrow is Lee Child at the top of his game, thirteen volumes into the series.  


Definitely check out Barry Eisler's John Rain series, starting with Rain Fall.  John Rain is the half-Japanese half-American hero of the series and he, too, is a bad-ass.  Rain, however, is rather more, ah, morally ambiguous, shall we say, than Jack Reacher.  Lots of good martial arts action and exotic Far East locales in this series.

No comments: