Jack Reacher

one shotOne Shot is the ninth book in the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child and was recently made into a movie starring Tom Cruise.  In the books Reacher is 6’5”, 250 lbs, with a 50” chest, blond hair and blue eyes – Tom Cruise?  Not seeing it, but since I haven’t seen the movie I can’t complain too loudly – I’ve heard that it actually works…  I’ll let you know what I think once I’ve actually seen the movie!

Anyway…  Reacher is a former military policeman who now wanders the country freely – no vehicle, no luggage, no home, no credit cards – and manages to get entrenched in one disastrous situation after another.  Not only is he a really large and well-built and apparently good-looking guy, he is smart, resourceful, and does not hesitate when doling out justice according to his own moral code.  Much of his world is black and white with very little room for gray, he always sticks up for the innocent and the downtrodden, he always gets his guy (often brutally) and he always saves the day before he moves on and leaves another love-struck woman behind him.  While the books are mysteries, they are heavy on the action and the suspense, not simple whodunits.  The stories in the series are smart, suspenseful and fast-paced with just enough humor and romance thrown in to keep all that action from getting boring.

In One Shot six shots are fired from a parking garage into a crowded street leaving five people dead.  The police quickly gather a watertight case against James Barr, a former military sniper.  Barr denies his guilt and only asks for one thing – Jack Reacher.  Reacher is already on his way having seen the story on the news, but he and Barr have a history, and he is no friend of Barr’s.  When Barr is severely beaten while in prison, Reacher, Barr’s attorney, his sister, a reporter, and a private investigator will have to find out what actually happened and bring about Reacher’s own brand of justice.  Like all Reacher novels that I’ve read, this one keeps you guessing (who’s the traitor, what part did Barr play, why did any of this happen?) and in suspense until the very end (even though you know – logically – that Reacher isn’t going to die – there ARE more Reacher books!).

If you like action and suspense in your mysteries, this series is definitely worth checking out at your local library (and if you don’t like it they have an excellent return policy!).

Title: One Shot
Author: Lee Child
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 384
Publication: Delacorte Press, June 2005

Appointment in Samarra

samarraAppointment in Samarra tells the story of the downfall of Julian English over the course of three short days during Christmas in 1930. Julian seems to have it all – he lives on the right street, owns a Cadillac dealership, is a member of the country club, has a beautiful wife, the right kind of friends – when he throws it all away by making a series of ridiculously awful choices (don’t throw a drink in the face of the guy who you owe $20k, don’t sleep with the mob boss’s mistress, don’t beat up a one-armed war veteran…) which cause his life to come crashing down around him, resulting in his ultimate destruction.

Appointment in Samarra by John O’Hara is number 22 on Modern Library’s top 100 list of the best English speaking novels written in the 20th century.  Personally, I don’t understand why.  In spite of complete chapters that are dedicated to the background of secondary and even tertiary characters there is no explanation for Julian’s actions – was he always such a self-centered jerk?  If so, then why do I care if his life is falling apart?  If not, then what the heck happened to turn him into one?!   The story takes place in a small town in Pennsylvania in the middle of prohibition and the depression, but you wouldn’t know it, everyone is hanging out at the country club and getting drunk and acting like idiots.  Perhaps that shows a truer picture of society during that time as “new money” was coming into play and “old money” was going away, and I know that it stretched the limits for how sex was addressed in novels at that time, but I honestly found it all a little repetitive, adolescent, and boring.  Oh well, at least I tried…

Title: Appointment in Samarra
Author: John O’Hara
Genre: Fiction, Classic
Publication: Originally published in 1934