Thursday, January 05, 2012

Review: "The Affair: A Reacher Novel" by Lee Child

It began long ago in the multiple award winning debut novel Killing Floor. 16 novels later the backstory of why Jack Reacher, US Army MP, left the service is finally told in The Affair.

It is 1997 and there is a problem in Mississippi. Somebody killed the very beautiful 27 year old Janice May Chapman in Carter Crossing. The problem for the military is the fact that quite possibly somebody from the nearby army base, Fort Kelhem, might be involved. Army Rangers, two different elite companies, are currently station at Fort Kelham while rotating in and out of Kosovo in an attempt to prevent war. There is some circumstantial evidence that a service member stationed at the base is involved. Not to mention the fact that one of the company commanders is connected politically to a powerful United Stated Senator who also happens to be the chairman of the armed service committee. A thorny problem and one that needs to be dealt with quietly and discreetly.

So the plan is to send in an obvious investigator, an MP by the name of Duncan Munro to the base while Reacher does some undercover work in the local small town of Carter Crossing, Mississippi. He’s supposed to act like an aimless ex-military guy and drift around town gathering intel. As part of that he is supposed to somehow develop a relationship with local law enforcement so that he can keep an eye on both aspects, civilian and military, of the investigation.

The job and the plan sounds relatively simple in the office of his superior officer. It is far different when Reacher is boots on the ground at the target trying to complete the mission. Not only complete the stated mission but the implied mission of protecting the United States Army at all costs. A tall order for Reacher and the case that changed everything.

Occasionally a bit graphic in terms of sexual contact between Reacher and a female character, the read steadily powers forth at a good clip as the numbers of players and complexity of the situation exponentially increases. The novel explains in detail many character traits that are now old hat for Reacher fans while at the sometime making those same traits seem fresh to the reader familiar with the series. Story/Plot complexity, as happens in all of the novels in the series, plays a huge roll here with the typical initial simple setup morphing into a complex situation with lots of moving pieces with public and private agendas.

The only negative is the author’s frequent reminders to the reader that it is 1997. The entire novel is of a flashback containing an additional extended flashback. While the technique worked it is diminished in its effectiveness by repeated reminders that the book is a flashback. Author Lee Child frequently inserts lines such as “No hold music at Treasury, either, back in 1997.” (Page 155) Or “This was already 1997, remember.” (page 208) there are numerous such reminders throughout the book with each one serving to jerk the reader back into the present day after shattering the artificial and engrossing world of The Affair.

That annoyance aside, overall the novel is another solidity good one in a long line of good Reacher novels. Though entirely a backstory novel, for the most part the 405 plus pages novel is done very well. Author Lee Child manages to make the Reacher character new again for long time fans while also creating a powerful prequel to the only running series. Filled with plenty of action, complex characters, a perplexing case, the readers is a good one where justice is finally served in typical Reacher fashion.

The Affair: A Reacher Novel
Lee Child
Delacorte Press (division of Random House)
September 2011
ISBN# 978-0-385-34432-6
Hardback (also available in audio, large print and e-book)
416 Pages

Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano Texas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2012


Randy Johnson said...

Not a huge fan of Child. I read The Killing Floor and enjoyed it okay. Just not enough to make me try another Reacher.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

I'm a big fan. I don't understand why they cast Tom Cruise in the Reacher role for the upcoming movie.

Have you tried P. T. Dueterman, Randy?

Mark Troy said...

I thought the mystery was very good. Like you, I found the time references annoying. And the sex. I'm trying to get my wife to camp out by the railroad track but she won't have it.

Jenny Milchman said...

This is one of my absolute favorite series out there right now. Thanks for the review, Kevin. I found that I occasionally forgot the novel was a prequel as I read. But you're right--the time references did reestablish that.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

Th time references bugged me more than the sex stuff did, Mark. Sandi has no interest in trains either. Of courst DART is not nearly as good idea. :)))

Kevin R. Tipple said...

I would get into the story, Jenny and then get yanked by the time deal back out. It got worse as the book went on.

I don't need any help slipping out of the fictional world these days. It does not take much anyway.

Yvette said...

I am a HUGE fan of the Jack Reacher books, Kevin, and I've just finished reading THE AFFAIR.

A big disappointment when I consider 61 HOURS and WORTH DYING FOR, last year's books which, to my mind, were Lee's best work ever.

I didn't hate THE AFFAIR, Lee is too good a writer for that, but I just found that the storyline meandered too much. The overly detailed 'love' scenes didn't add anything to the story. Dare I say this? I was bored part of the time. That's never happened to me before with a Jack Reacher novel.

I did like though, the way Reacher's brother was woven into the scheme AND the use of Frances Neagley who is one of the only recurring characters in the whole Reacher saga. (As is Garber in another way.)

I say, read last year's two books and then make up your mind about Reacher. It's usually a terrific series worth reading. Another one I highly recommend is PERSUADER, published a few years ago.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

Welcome, Yvette. I have read and reviewed all of the Reacher books.

Seemed to me that the new one was better than 61 HOURS and WORTH DYING FOR. Though I wasn't impressed by the little bit of his brother, I did like the use of Frances Neagley.

The sex scenes bored me and I have explained again my issue on the time deal. Still, overall, I thought it was better than last year's efforts and worth reading.

Yvette said...

Well, whether we agree or disagree, we are still Reacher Creatures - yes?

I'll read each book as it comes out yearly as I've done in the past.

My feeling is, not every book is going to be a winner. Lee is only human.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

I will continue to read them as they come out too.