Review

61 Hours: A Reacher Novel

by Lee Child

61 HOURS, Lee Child’s latest installment in the Jack
Reacher mythos, is one of those rare ground-shifting works. I say
this for a few reasons. Despite what you may have read elsewhere,
there is plenty of action here, though it does concentrate a bit
more on Reacher’s cerebral side than past volumes have. We
are exposed not only to his encyclopedic knowledge but also to his
ability to connect disparate bits of information to reach
conclusions that are (usually) correct. We also learn more about
his past, and not just with the U.S. Army. There is a short and
fascinating --- and yes, chilling --- account drawn from his
childhood.

Another aspect of the book, and the one that no doubt will have
readers talking about the most and the loudest, is its cliffhanger
ending. We are promised a new Child novel in October 2010, which
will tell “what happens next.” If so, then these two
titles will be inexorably paired. This is quite different for the
Reacher series, which, according to the author, was planned so that
the books could be read in any order. 61 HOURS, to put it another
way, is a turning point.

What is not unusual about 61 HOURS, in relation to the rest of
the Reacher novels, is that it is another one-sit read,
edge-of-the-seat thriller in which the clock literally begins
ticking on the first page. Child begins by putting Reacher on one
of those senior citizen tour buses in the middle of the heartland,
which, in turn, is in the midst of a horrendous winter storm. The
bus has an accident --- there is a fine bit of irony associated
with that --- with the result that the passengers, including
Reacher, suddenly find themselves to be the unexpected guests of
the citizens of Bolton, South Dakota. Bolton is a small town made
larger by the presence of a brand-new federal prison on its
outskirts. It also maintains an uneasy and not always peaceful
co-existence with a large and unkempt gang of undesirables who have
set up a squatters’ residency near the town in an abandoned
construction camp that is also home to a small building that had
been erected by the U.S. military shortly after World War II but is
now deserted, apparently never having been used for anything.

The squatters are rumored to be manufacturing and distributing
crystal meth, and one of them has been arrested for possession with
intent to sell within the city. The only witness against him is an
elderly Bolton resident who is under 24-hour guard against
assassination before the dealer’s trial. Indeed, an immensely
wealthy Mexican drug lord known as Plato is plotting a major double
cross that involves a massive transfer of goods and real estate in
the area, and the witness --- while she is alive --- provides the
only cloud, if you will, on the title.

Plato is setting up a window of opportunity for the potential
killer, and Reacher finds himself stepping into the breach to
assist the police force, which is headed by Tom Holland, who has
seen much better days in his law enforcement career, and by Andrew
Peterson, a cop’s cop whose assistant chief position belies
his superior abilities. He is assisted by a woman who he knows only
as a voice over the telephone and who has an ironic tie to his
history with the U.S. Army. Before the book ends, we see a side of
Reacher that we have never seen before and may never see again.

If you ever have had even a passing interest in the Reacher
novels, you simply must read 61 HOURS. Reacher has never been by
turns tougher or more vulnerable, while in Plato he encounters his
most dangerous and intriguing adversary to date. And his
description of a South Dakota winter storm is not to be forgotten.
It will chill you to the marrow, even if you read it on an August
afternoon on an Atlantic beach. Do not miss this one under any
circumstances. And clear your calendar for October 19, 2010, when
Child’s next offering hits the world.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 22, 2010

61 Hours: A Reacher Novel
by Lee Child

  • Publication Date: September 28, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Dell
  • ISBN-10: 0440243696
  • ISBN-13: 9780440243694