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 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.