The Affair by Lee Child (audio)

The brand-newest Reacher, just out a few weeks now, is another flashback or prequel: it’s 1997, and Reacher is still in the army. He is sent out to Carter Crossing, Mississippi to do damage control on a murder case that threatens the army’s good reputation. There’s a lot of politics involved: the local army base is sending companies secretly into Kosovo, and one of the captains in question is the son of a senator in the Armed Services Committee. It develops that this very captain has some connections to the murdered woman – or maybe his father the senator does. Reacher breezes into town intending to remain under cover while investigating the case parallel to the above-board MP working from the base; but his cover is immediately blown by the local sheriff, a former Marine MP herself. The one murdered woman turns out to be the third in a series of similar killings – the first two having been ignored apparently because they were black. And then more people start dying. What exactly is going on here? And who can Reacher trust? He’s inclined to trust Elizabeth Devereaux, the sheriff, but he’s getting conflicting messages from various sources at the army.

The Affair is in several ways a standard Reacher production, and in several ways not. Reacher does his investigating; he’s a smart guy and he figures things out; he eventually will get the bad guy(s), no doubt about that. There is rather less ass-kicking in this book, though. Husband was disappointed, and I was just flat-out surprised at how easily and relatively bloodlessly the hooligans were taken down. There is rather more sex – Reacher does tend to get laid in many of the books, but the sex got a little more attention in this one. It was well done – I’m not complaining – but I was a little confused at the shifting focus. I wonder if Child has figured out that he has a number of female fans swooning over Reacher and decided to play up to them (us)? As a swooning Reacher fan myself, let me say: more ass-kicking please! I don’t begrudge him the sex but that was never the primary focus, and I’d rather stick with the classic model of ass-kicking with sex on the side, rather than the other way around.

This bit is very slightly spoilery… I had some trouble suspending disbelief as we discovered all the mistakes made by the illustrious Elizabeth Devereaux in investigating the murders before Reacher’s arrival. If she’s such a veteran hotshot MP herself, how did she miss that there was no blood on the white collar of the woman who had her THROAT CUT? Etc. She beats Neagley at the mind game at which the latter supposedly excels but makes all kinds of amateurish mistakes in the murder investigation. It just didn’t ring true for me. End spoiler. But hey, maybe I’m just mad at the whole Reacher camp right now because… have you heard? They’ve cast Tom Cruise, of all people, to play him in the movie they’re making of One Shot! Blasphemy, says I. Reacher is supposed to be 6’3″ and 230+ pounds, muscular, and blonde. Sigh. And I’m not alone – you should see the Reacher fans raising hell over at the facebook page.

But all in all, this was another satisfying edition of the Reacher adventure. I liked it. It just wasn’t my favorite. I wonder where Child is going to take Reacher from here? It occurs to me that he’s getting older (possibly a reason to keep writing prequels!) – but Child came up with another possible plot thread here: the younger version of Reacher, named Duncan Monroe, just a bit earlier in his career and otherwise apparently a spitting image. I guess we could always revisit Monroe as Reacher ages. What do you do with an aging hero? Realistically we could see him forced to accept some realities and calm down a bit; but action/adventure/thriller/hero/mysteries don’t always take the realistic route! At any rate I’m still hooked in. What’s next, Reacher?

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