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PERSUADER by Lee Child: Book Review

“Cops put things right.   They look after people.”

That’s the quote three pages from the end of Persuader by Lee Child.  It was Jack Reacher’s answer to a question posed to him ten years ago, when he was still an Army MP.  The question was asked by a young sergeant just posted to his staff.  Ten years later, that’s still his answer when he’s asked that question, although the sergeant was killed the day after she asked it.

Persuader is the twelfth novel in the Reacher series, and like all the others it’s masterful.   Reacher had gotten to the rank of major before he was rifed (let go, downsized, or, as the Brits say, made redundant).  The army was getting smaller and he had risen as far as he was going to, so he left.  Now he criss-crosses the country with, if I remember correctly, his wallet, passport, and toothbrush, nothing more.  And he finds trouble wherever he goes.

The novel has one of the greatest opening chapters I’ve ever read, with first and last sentences that make sure you won’t put the book down.  First–“The cop climbed out of the car exactly four minutes before he got shot.”  Last–“The message said, I’m in.”  Between those two sentences is a set-up in which Reacher and DEA agents foil the staged kidnapping attempt of a college student.  During the attempt Reacher “shoots and kills” a campus cop so that he can “rescue” the young man and thus get into his father’s house.  The father is a suspected drug dealer who is believed to have abducted a federal agent.  But getting in turns out to be the easy part.

The book goes back and forth between this present-day situation and one a decade earlier when Reacher unwittingly sent his sergeant to her death.  At that time Reacher thought he had killed the man responsible for the sergeant’s death, but now he sees the man on a Boston street.  A phone call that Reacher makes gives him information that connects him to the killer who appears to be connected to the college student’s father.  If all this sounds unbelievably entangled, Child makes you believe it.  In my opinion he writes the most realistic dialogue in any of today’s crime novels.

Child’s books are not for the squeamish.  There’s always a lot of blood and killing.  But somehow the violence never seems gratuitous.  There are bad guys out there, and when Reacher confronts them it’s them or him. And we’re always rooting for him.

As I was writing this review, I went to Child’s web site to check on something.  I clicked on to his Appearances page and found to my delight that he will be autographing 61 Hours, his latest novel, at Borders Books in South Portland, Maine, on the same day I’ll be there visiting family.  Guess where I’ll be on June 4th?

You can find out more about Lee Child at his web site

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