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Jack Reacher #14

I have written several times about Lee Child’s series of Jack Reacher novels. Two years I was unaware of them. Had I heard of them, I wouldn’t have thought they would interest me. That’s when #12 in the series, Nothing to Lose, appeared. It was June, I had some time on my hands, and Janet Maslin’s NYT review appeared in the NYT.

Leaves turn. Snow falls. Robins tweet. And a new Jack Reacher novel arrives as the year’s first red-hot beach book. Truly, this is how some of us keep track of the seasons.

That’s because Lee Child’s brainiac tough-guy series has been on a steady winning streak, a pattern that began three books back with “One Shot” and continues through the latest installment, “Nothing to Lose.” . . .

Mr. Child’s books, like Hitchcock’s films, inspire a hard-won confidence: every detail, no matter how minor, has been put into play for a reason. . . .

The Reacher books are hugely, deservedly popular. Some of Mr. Child’s devotees relish these novels’ strategic intelligence; some like the brisk interpersonal dynamics; some like the author’s fascination with minutiae. . . .

I decided to find out what the fuss was about. I got the book a week later, started it one night, and finished it the next afternoon. I wouldn’t say I was hooked. The book had extraordinary momentum, but the plot seemed mighty silly and I hadn’t yet come to appreciate the depths of Reacher’s character.

Nonetheless, when #13, Gone Tomorrow, appeared last June, I snapped it up and devoured it. That’s when I got serious about Reacher. A few weeks later, I picked up One Shot (#9) in paperback, based on Maslin’s reference to it as the start of the series’ winning streak. I discussed it at the time, concluding: “I don’t know what to make of these books. They’re not by any means great literature. I’m not even sure I like the Jack Reacher character so much. What I do like is how his reasoning is laid out. He has unparalleled fighting skills, but his mental skills are just as important to his success and great fun to observe. No doubt I’ll read #14 next year as soon as it comes out. Maybe I’ll continue my remedial reading in the meantime.”

In September, when we arrived in Nantucket, I decided I needed another Reacher book to read while sitting outside our inn looking out at the harbor, so we made a bookstore our first stop and it had Reacher #1, Killing Floor, in paperback. I thought after that that a break might be in order, but a month later I got my Kindle, in preparation for our trip to Europe, and I decided that reading yet another Reacher novel on it would be a good experiment. Let’s see. What’s #2? Die Trying. Moments later it was on my Kindle and a day later I had finished it.

By this point, I was saturated. I really did need a break. I put Lee Child out of my thoughts. Even with summer’s approach and robins’ tweets, I didn’t think of him. Until I opened the NYT this morning and found yet another Janet Maslin rave review of another Lee Child Jack Reacher novel, his newest, 61 Hours. It’s already out in the UK, but it won’t be out here until Tuesday.

I didn’t get far in Maslin’s review. The first sentence starts, “In ’61 Hours,’ the 14th, craftiest and most highly evolved of Lee Child’s electrifying Jack Reacher books, . . . .” That was all I needed to know. Reading any more would spoil the plot. I’m ready. If it were available today, I’d be reading it now on my Kindle rather than writing this post. But I have to wait. And once I saw on the Amazon site that I would have to wait, I had time to contemplate whether I really wanted to read it on the Kindle rather than as a physical book.

In principle, this should be easy. There are no maps, no photos, no family trees, none of the graphic elements that frustrate me on the Kindle. It’s just a straightforward narrative, the ultimate page turner (or next button pusher). Read, click, read, click. Yet, these books are so much fun to read, and part of the fun is that genuine page turning experience, feeling the book thicken in the left hand, thin in the right, until the right is empty. I went for the book version.

Now let’s see if I can restrain myself from downloading the Kindle version next week if the book doesn’t come quickly.

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