Monday, 5 January 2015

The Visitor by Lee Child

published 2000








Eight minutes later he heard a key in the lock and looked up and expected to see Poulton at the door. But it wasn’t Poulton. It was a woman. She looked about sixteen. She had long fair hair in a loose ponytail. White teeth in an open, tanned face. Bright blue eyes. She was wearing a man’s suit, extensively tailored to fit. A white shirt and a tie. Small black shoes with low heels. She was over six feet tall, long-limbed, and very slim. And completely spectacular. And she was smiling at him.

‘Hi,’ she said.

Reacher made no reply. Just stared at her. Her face clouded and her smile turned a little embarrassed.

‘So you want to do the FAQs right away?’

‘The what?’

‘The FAQs. Frequently-asked-questions.’

‘I’m not sure I have any questions.’

‘Oh, OK.’ She smiled again, relieved. It gave her a frank, guileless look.

‘What are the frequently-asked-questions?’ he said.

‘Oh, you know, the stuff most new guys around here ask me. It’s really, really tedious.’

She meant it. He could see that. But he asked anyway. ‘What kind of stuff?’ he said.

She made a face, resigned. ‘I’m Lisa Harper,’ she said. ‘I’m twenty-nine, yes really, I’m from Aspen Colorado, I’m six feet one, yes really, I’ve been at Quantico two years, yes I date guys, no I dress like this just because I like it, no I’m not married, no I don’t currently have a boyfriend, and no I don’t want to have dinner with you tonight.’ She finished with another smile and he smiled back.



observations: For reasons to do with clearing my TBR pile, I haven’t read many thrillers or other crime stories in the past couple of months – a break with my usual habits. Now it’s a new year, and with embargo and book-clearing both done (there’ll be more on this in a future blog entry) I’m back reading them, and I can really tell the difference, having been away for a while. A Lee Child book is probably the ultimate non-literary novel (at least in the pool of books I would choose from), very different from some of the more pretentious works I’ve been reading.

I keep changing my mind about the Jack Reacher books – he is such an ideal protagonist, you really have to admire Child for inventing him. The books are simple and unadorned but not at all badly-written, and by having this perfect hero (strong, clever, untrammelled, simple morals) he clears away a lot of the rubbish and boring bits that festoon otherwise similar books.

But then. Although Child’s attitudes to women, and Reacher’s, are on the whole unimpeachable, I found the horrible descriptions of violence towards women very off-putting. (Not in the Stieg Larsson class – I feel he is the ultimate in this area, and that’s why I dislike those books). And the FBI forces Reacher to work for them basically by threatening his girlfriend, in a particularly unpleasant way. This was seen as wrong, but not as outrageous as it actually was. I was shocked by this plot device.

Anyway, I read this one and enjoyed a lot of it. Its date means it feels more old-fashioned than it actually is – it’s pre-9/11, there are mobile phones but they are not quite as ubiquitous as now, computers don’t play the role they would in 2015… What I do like about the book is the clues: Lee Child is a clue-planter up there with the best of the Golden Age, strangely enough. I did clock various oddities, and unwound some of the plot ahead of Reacher, but it was still a very compelling story. And some of my notes of complaint during the story were completely taken care of in the solution…

Reacher is funny on the subject of crime profiling - ‘It’s just common sense… You guys get paid for this? You study it in college and all?’

At the end of it, having raced through the final pages, I still can’t decide whether or not to go on to read the next in this long series.

Beretta guns feature in the book: for a long look at the guns and the biretta hats, consult this entry on the blog.

Reacher’s minder in this book, the woman above, always wears ‘an exact parody of the unofficial Bureau uniform’, and I was interested that Child never sees this as a choice in its own right – he stresses that ‘a whole lot of cloth had been cut out of it to make it fit’, never seems to consider that the suit was actually made from scratch to fit a woman’s body.

14 comments:

  1. I like Lee Child's books. I know they all merge into one but that's part of the attraction for me. I haven't read the last couple but that's as much to do with time as anything else. I love the woman's outfit.

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    1. They are a certain kind of reading aren't they? As I say, I'm not sure I'll go onto the next one - but then I probably will when I want something not too demanding.

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  2. I've only read one Jack Reacher novel but it bored me witless. So I've never bothered again. But obviously I'm missing something as they are hugely popular. Oh well...I can't mind that there's at least one author I don't feel compelled to read :)

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    1. I didn't expect to like them Bernadette, but decided to try them, and surprised myself. What I really like, as I imply above, is his clue planting, which took me by surprise, the last thing I was expecting in a rough and tough thriller. One of those I have read did NOT have good clues in, and I was disappointed. But I'm not going to suggest you try again - you gave Jack a fair chance!

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  3. I have read a couple and enjoyed them without rushing to read more, though I have got most of them in the stacks. I think I'm kind of put off by the lack of a few decent swearwords littering every other page, plus the outcome is pretty much pre-determined before you even open the book. That's pretty much fair to say regarding any thriller or crime series book TBH, insofar as however much jeopardy he is in, he is going to survive and save the day. Suspending disbelief and enjoying the ride is a big part of fiction reading, more so with these. It does take a certain mood for me to open one of his though.

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    1. I think we have the same attitude to him, but coming from different directions: in a certain mood and on a certain day he'll do, though at heart too tough for me and not tough enough for you.

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  4. Moira - I agree on the way women are treated in this series. No, thanks. I think that's one of the main reasons I haven't been reading these books. I'm not saying they're terrible, but they just aren't compelling to me.

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    1. I totally understand your view Margot: he hovers on the edge of the lone for me, but I can see he goes over it for you.

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  5. Moira, your excellent review entices me to read Lee Child's novels, as a physical book rather than as an ebook. Some books have to be read in paper form. I don't know much about the Jack Reacher series but I like the sound of it. I haven't seen the film adaptation.

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    1. I hope you like them Prashant. I wasn't tempted by the film at all - I think everyone would agree that Tom Cruise really wasn't the right choice to play Jack Reacher....

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  6. I think the early ones in particular were good reads, and even re-reads, but I've struggled to maintain interest in the later ones - a bit repetitive. Would it take a fair bit of tailoring to fit a man's suit to a woman - even one without any lumps? Maybe she could save up for made-to-measure?

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    1. I wouldn't be surprised if I found the same, this is only the fourth one. I'm glad you're bothered by the suit thing too - I know it's very minor, but it seemed so strange that he was looking at it from that point of view....

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  7. Hmmm, interesting. I have not read enough of Lee Child's books to have an opinion one way or the other. I read the first one, enjoyed it, bought the 2nd but never read it. But I do that with a lot of authors, so it doesn't mean anything. Based on what I have read, each book is basically the same thing over and over, and fans of the series like that fine. If it is true, I would probably not want to read many of them.

    Col's comments are interesting about not enough swear words. I don't remember that, but it does seem strange for that character. (It has been years since I read that first one.) Since I use quite a few swear words daily myself, and I am not an action hero, it is hard for me to imagine. I must give that 2nd one a try.

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    1. Yes it was interesting what Col said - I wouldn't notice the absence of them, but might be put off if there were too many hardcore ones. As you say, the books are very similar, and you wouldn't want too much of that....

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