Sunday, June 7, 2009
The first five chapters of Gone Tomorrow deliver a tautly written and suspenseful start to the thriller. Reacher is in a New York City subway car at 2am heading uptown. There are six passengers in the car but one of them, a woman wearing a winter coat in the summer, catches Reacher's eye. She exhibits the eleven behavioral indicators for a female suicide bomber developed by Israeli counterintelligence. Reacher can't figure out why a suicide bomber would be on a sparsely populated train and engages her to try and talk her down. Susan Mark isn't a bomber but clearly without hope; she shoots herself in the head six feet in front of Reacher.
In the investigation that follows, the police close the case as a suicide, agents from an unspecified government agency tell Reacher to forget it, and men representing a private security company want to talk with him about the incident. Both groups want to know what Susan said to him and if sh gave him anything. He meets her brother, a New Jersey cop, who tells Reacher that Susan worked in the Pentagon for Army human resources and her actions are totally out of character.
Reacher being Reacher he can't leave it alone and decides to find what happened. His investigation leads him to a candidate for the US Senate and a mother and daughter from Afghanistan. Reacher starts to find links to the Russian occupation of Afghanistan three decades earlier.
Child is a master of fast-paced, read-in-a-single-sitting thrillers and this is one of his best. It is best not to try any sort of analysis or you will wonder why Reacher has to needle and misdirect the authorities and why the government is represented by ham-fisted agents (NB, this isn't always the case in Reacher stories). You might also wonder why someone who has racked up the body count he has isn't a bit larger blip on the government radar.
If you have read the previous twelve Reacher stories you know you will get some explicit violence, a muted sexual encounter, detailed descriptions, and a neat wrap-up. Here we get a long paragraph describing the model of subway car on which Reacher is riding at the beginning as well as the weapons he uses. I like detail such as Child provides and didn't dismiss it as filler.
I thought Reacher's analysis of a military career based on what isn't written is nicely done. Having grown up in a military household and having spent four and a half years in the Army, I automatically look at military decorations on a soldier's Class A uniform to see what I can tell about their career. This was a neat touch. I also marvel that Child, an Englishman, can write so well about the U.S. Military (yes, he takes some liberties but I don't care).
I recommend Gone Tomorrow to anyone who enjoys a action thriller and isn't bothered by some heavy violence at points.
The Amazon link below includes an essay by Lee Child about the novel.