Monday, August 5, 2013

Book Review: Killing Floor by Lee Child

My husband and I recently watched the crime thriller Jack Reacher, starring Tom Cruise and Rosamund Pike.  It was a fun and entertaining film, not unlike many other Tom Cruise thriller vehicles.  Jack Reacher is an ex-military policeman who, despite a desire to be left alone, gets drawn in to solving a high-profile crime involving a military sniper and five random victims.  As a civilian, he works with - and sometimes against - the local authorities.  The film is based on the book One Shot by Lee Child; interestingly it's the ninth in the Jack Reacher series, not the first as you might expect.

Anyway, I was intrigued enough by the character and set up to go looking for the first book in the series, Killing Floor.  Jack Reacher, just a few years out of the military, is enjoying his freedom, keeping a low profile and traveling around the United States.  He decides to get off a Greyhound bus near the town of Margrave, Georgia, when he recalls that his older brother mentioned a blues musician, Blind Blake, who died there.  While eating breakfast at a diner in town, he's arrested for a murder he didn't commit, and sent to the state prison over the weekend until his alibi can be confirmed.  His innocence is proven in short order and he's ready to leave Margrave far behind him, but then he discovers his personal connection to the case and becomes determined to solve the murder and bring the killers to justice.

Reacher has a deep sense of loyalty to his family and a drive to protect the innocent (children, bystanders, etc.) and those he cares for, as well as a healthy sense of self-preservation.  While he would prefer not to get involved, his personal ethics won't allow him to walk away when innocent people are in danger.  He demonstrates little sympathy for criminals and those who prey on the weak and defenseless.  He's the stereotypical honorable and principled loner, with deadly hand-to-hand combat skills.

The pacing of the book is quick and even.  It rarely slows down from the time Reacher is arrested until the climax when he solves the crime, rescues the innocents, punishes the bad guys and narrowly escapes the widespread destruction.  There's a love interest, of course, a police officer who helps confirm Reacher's alibi and ferret out the dirty cops.  There are twists and turns, many of which were predictable and standard for a crime thriller, but a few that caught me off guard.  And Mr. Child also manages to insert some commentary on the supposedly "post-racial" state of our society, particularly in the Deep South.

Killing Floor, like the film Jack Reacher, was an entertaining diversion for a few hours, and there's nothing wrong with that.  It's not destined to find a place on my shelf of favorites, but I may pick up the next one in the series when I need another crime thriller.

(Note: At first, I was pleasantly surprised by the comparative lack of foul language, gory details, and explicit sex scenes in this book, as crime novels go, at least until the end, when there are a series of rather gruesome and violent episodes.  So be aware of that if you decide to pick this one up.)

Killing Floor
by Lee Child
ISBN: 9780515141429
Buy it from Amazon here: (paperback, hardcover, ebook, audiobook)
Find it at a local independent bookseller.
Look it up on Goodreads.
Check it out at your local library (find the nearest one here).

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