Thursday, October 22, 2015

Book review: "The Killing Floor" by Lee Child

Encapsulate the plot of this book in one sentence.

An ex-military police officer accidentally stumbles into the small town in rural Georgia where his long lost brother happened to be investigating the largest counterfeiting operation in recent history and (the ex-MP) is dead set on shutting the operation down while avenging said brother's murder.

(if that sounds like it's full of miraculous coincidence, you're not wrong)

When and where did you get this book?

August 2015, and

What year or edition?

Both the kindle edition and the audio edition.

Did you finish it?

Yes, although it was an exercise in persistence more than anything else.

What's your verdict?

I think this is the first book Lee Child wrote, and it shows a little.  It's the first of the Jack Reacher novels for sure, told in first person.  I thought the prose style, when read aloud in the audiobook, was pretty effective.  I didn't like it written, but worked through it.  It's extremely abrupt, truncated, and full of incomplete sentences, making it seem like Jack Reacher was unintelligent where he's supposed to be really sharp.  However, I can see how that style appeals to others and might be pretty prolific in the crime genre.

His characters weren't as fully fleshed out as I'd hoped.  Reacher himself hinted at some depth, but most of the others were pretty one-dimensional.  One specific hangup I absolutely loathed was that everyone said "right?" when trying to verify that others were tracking on their thought processes, regardless of the character's background.  One character is Harvard educated, and does it a lot, as does Reacher, as do the bad guys.

My biggest annoyance has already been mentioned in the plot sentence.  There was so much coincidence that I gave up on anything being purposeful fairly early on.  I suspect that the story telling, style, and character development get better as the series progresses (it seems unlikely that there would be 22 of them otherwise.

What surprises did it hold, if any?

The biggest surprise is that the author stuck with the mega-contrivances to keep the plot strung together.  I wasn't really surprised by the way the plot unfolded, although I was pleased with a couple of the switch-backs.

Which scenes will stay with you?

I actually liked the opening seen very well, as well as a few of the action-y scenes.  Lee Child has a great sense of how to describe the action succinctly but interestingly, connoting the sense of urgency and tension from the main character's point of view.  I'm curious to see if he grows that style out to other aspects of his writing in future books.

Which characters will stay with you?

The main character, Jack Reacher.  I expected him to be slightly more super-human than he was.  I also expected him to come across as more thoughtful than he did.  Maybe what I missed was a sense of refinement, a smoothing out of the roughest edges of Reacher's characterization that would make him slightly more monstrous and relatable at the same time.  I'll blame Tom Cruise for this expectation.  Say what you want about the guy -- he's a good actor.

What genre would you say it is?


Have you read anything else by this author?

Not yet, but I will.  Stephen King endorsed the series, so I'm willing to read at least two more.

Is it available today?

Yes, in all versions.  I suggest the Kindle and audible versions to see which you like better.  At this point you can probably get the entire set in a used bookstore.

Give me a good quote.

I'll give a short series.

“The United States motto?” I said. “E Pluribus Unum? Adopted in 1776 by the Second Continental Congress, right?”

Child, Lee (2006-04-25). Killing Floor (Jack Reacher, Book 1) (p. 15). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

“He’s a big deal around here,” Finlay said. “His operation out there pays us a lot of taxes, does us a lot of good. A lot of revenue and a lot of benefit for the town without a lot of mess, because it’s so far away, right? So we try to take care of it for him. But now it’s a homicide scene, and you’ve got explaining to do.”

Child, Lee (2006-04-25). Killing Floor (Jack Reacher, Book 1) (p. 17). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

“I wasn’t leaving a homicide scene,” I said. “I was walking down a damn road. There’s a difference, right? People leaving homicide scenes run and hide. They don’t walk straight down the road. What’s wrong about walking down a road? People walk down roads all the damn time, don’t they?”

Child, Lee (2006-04-25). Killing Floor (Jack Reacher, Book 1) (p. 18). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

There's a lot of that.  And it bothers me.  Hopefully, it'll become a buzz instead of an annoyance.  :-)

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