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A Wanted Man

September 13, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

In my last post, two nights ago, I wrote about the challenge of deciding whether to continue reading the fourth volume of Robert Caro’s Lyndon Johnson biography, The Passage of Power, which I was three-fourths of the way through, or to put it aside temporarily in favor of Lee Child’s 17th Jack Reacher thriller, A Wanted Man, which had just come out that day.

My fear with every Reacher thriller is that once I start it, I won’t stop, so that not just whatever else I’m reading, but my life as a whole, will get put on hold. It seems I am powerless to resist. So it was that I read the first 100 pages of A Wanted Man two nights ago. Gail came home at one point with news she thought was worthy of my attention, but failed to capture it.

I awoke before 6:00 AM yesterday and read another 180 pages. Just 125 pages to go. The power of Child’s books is mystifying. He grabs you in the first paragraph and doesn’t let go. But this was putting me in dangerous territory.

Was I prepared to stay home until I finished the book? I do have a job. I had to get to my office. I found the will to tear myself away and headed off.

Once free of the book’s spell, I was able to function normally. We had a museum opening at the Seattle Asian Art Museum to attend last night. When I got home from my office, rather than picking up the book, I picked Gail up and we headed back out. By the time I did open the book again, later in the evening, I couldn’t get through a dozen pages before falling asleep.

And then a funny thing happened. The spell was broken. When I picked the book up again this morning, I was less deeply engaged. Was it because of the break, or did I just happen to take my break at the very point in the book where it stops making sense? I don’t know. I do know that I found the first two-thirds unbearably gripping, only to bring to the rest of the book a mild curiosity and the sense that Child had taken a weak path in his plot development.

All the Reacher books, ultimately, are implausible in that they start with him stumbling on some local bad guy or crime, only to discover that he has become enmeshed in an international conspiracy with the fate of the world resting on his shoulders. How he thinks through the situations and sizes up the people is the best part of the books. That and the inevitable climax in which he uses his unique combination of brains and brawn to take down a couple of dozen bad guys before fading into the sunset. Over the last third of A Wanted Man, however, he wasn’t called on to apply his acuity so much. I think that’s what I missed.

Nonetheless, Reacher is an original, and I was happy to catch up with his latest doings. I will no doubt devour the next installment the moment it appears.

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