I am probably the last person in the whole entire world to have learned about Lee Child. Apparently his series about ex-Marine badass Jack Reacher has sold over 40 million books. I only learned about the series when I picked up on the fan outrage surrounding the decision to cast Tom Cruise as Reacher in an upcoming movie.* The description of the Reacher books intrigued me. They sounded like solid airplane thrillers, so I placed a library hold and patiently waited my turn to read the first Reacher novel, Killing Floor.
I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. I expected, and received, over-the-top villains, gory violence, and some ridiculous coincidences. What I didn’t expect was a likable love interest, a great supporting character/sidekick, and a surprisingly thoughtful protagonist.
Killing Floor opens with Reacher sitting down in a diner in the small town of Margrave, Georgia. He is promptly arrested for murder. Reacher has been in town for less than a day and knows the arrest is bogus–but why him? Who wants him behind bars? And who’s really responsible for the grisly murder they’ve arrested him for?
Needless to say, there’s a conspiracy at work in Killing Floor, and that conspiracy is unraveled with skilled pacing and just the right amount of detail. To solve the case, Reacher teams up with two members of the Margrave police force: Sergeant Roscoe, a smart and perceptive cop who is devoted to her hometown, and Detective Finlay, a hyper-competent Boston transplant new to Georgia. The characters are engaging and the prose is workmanlike but fast-paced. When I finished, I promptly put my name on the library waiting list for the second Reacher novel. This is just the kind of thing I want to read when I’m waiting in an airport or spending a lazy rainy Sunday at home.
My one warning is this: the descriptions of how the members of the conspiracy punish traitors or failures is pretty disturbing. If you prefer your thrillers light on the graphic descriptions of violence, this book probably isn’t for you. But if you enjoy thrillers and don’t mind a bit of gore, Killing Floor delivers a tense, entertaining adventure.
Rating: Library Loan
* In the books, Reacher is a giant of a man — 6’5″ and muscular. Cruise is famously diminutive even by Hollywood-actor standards.