Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Enemy - Lee Child

In honor of the upcoming Lee Child/Jack Reacher release of The Affair on September 27, 2011 I recently re-read The Enemy by Lee Child. The Affair is a prequel to Killing Floor set six months before the original Reacher novel. I also recently read "Second Son", a short story depicting Reacher as a 13 year old boy (highly recommended for 1.99 on Kindle if you are a Reacher fan).

The Enemy is a prequel novel starring Reacher as a member of a special division of the Army military police. The novel was released in 2004, but starts on New Year's eve 1989 and the first few days of 1990. You really get to see Reacher in his element while he works for the Army. It gives great background to why he thinks what he thinks, and how he works through cases after he leaves the Army. If you're a big Reacher fan, you know some of the novels are written in first person, others in third. This is written in first, so you can get inside Reachers head.

The novel has a great beginning, with a general found naked face down in a sleazy motel across the street from a gentlemen's club. Reacher quickly gets involved in the case, and finds out that the case is much more complicated. For one, the agenda of a top secret meeting in California is missing. All of the general's coworkers say there wasn't an agenda, but everyone in the Army knows any time there's a meeting, there's always an agenda. All of a sudden, the general's wife has been murdered, as well as a Delta force soldier on base. Reacher starts trying to put the pieces together, but he has a new boss who is trying to obstruct him, and even tries to pin some of the crimes on him!

The novel is huge in terms of space. The book starts in Fort Bird, NC, then moves through Paris, Germany, California and South Carolina. You really wonder if Lee Child visited all of these places, because the descriptions are very realistic. In typical Reacher fashion, he has the crime figured out about 80% through the novel, then spends the last 20% getting his ducks in a row for the legal system, and finally exacts his revenge.

There's a lot of coffee talk in this book, which I can appreciate lately since I've been drinking so much coffee. To paraphrase... "The diner had a bottomless cup policy, and I exploited it ruthlessly."

This is a classic Reacher read, right up there with Killing Floor and Persuader. It is highly recommended, especially in light of the upcoming prequel Reacher novel The Affair.

I'm taking a break from crime fiction until the new Reacher comes out. In the meantime, I'll be reading Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. It's an experiment in patience, kind of like my recent reading of Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cloudburst and Simple Simon - Ryne Douglas Pearson

I've been reading a lot lately (travel, etc) but I've been traveling without my laptop, so I'm a bit behind on the Vintage Crime Blog. Books I've read but not blogged include Simple Simon and Cloudburst by Ryne Douglas Pearson and The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler. I'm going to do a brief Ryne Douglas Pearson (@rynedp on twitter!) roundup to cover those two novels.

I had never heard of Ryne Douglas Pearson before a fateful retweet on twitter. I was on vacation with my family and-the in-laws, when I saw one of my twitter peeps RT an offer on Cloudburst for free on the Kindle. I did a quick google of the author, and found out that he was the author of Simple Simon, the novel that served as the basis for Mercury Rising. I actually saw that movie when it first came out. I immediately downloaded Cloudburst and started reading it after I finished up The Hypnotist while on vacation.

The novel has a really fast start. It is pretty much the best start of a novel that I've read since Persuader by Lee Child. A person is killed in Los Angeles in a huge rain of bullets and missiles which starts a chain of events in Greece, Los Angeles, and Libya. The story is told from the perspective of four people primarily. Art Jefferson, a career agent with the FBI, Bud DiContino, newly promoted chief of the NSA, Bart Hendrickson, the pilot of a 747 that gets hijacked, and DONNER, a double agent in Libya.

Once the story is set, the different characters are all moving along different story lines that you soon find out are interconnected. Art has to track down the assasins, the 747 gets hijacked - and mysterious cargo gets loaded onto the plane in Libya. Meanwhile Bud has to manage the whole situation from DC alongside a newly sworn in president.

The story moves along quickly, and the ending is exciting. The military jargon is accurate, but not obtrusive. I like how some old school fighter planes end up getting reactivated during the story as well.

Overall, the story had a great beginning and ending, and left me wanting more, which was nice since at the end of the kindle edition, the publisher kindly included the first few chapters of Simple Simon, the novel that the move Mercury rising was based off of.

Simple Simon is the story of a 16 year old autistic boy who accidentally starts decoding the governments newest multi-billion dollar encryption scheme. The messages that he decrypts leads him to call a phone number, and then things start getting crazy. Long story short, a government agent kills his parents, and he ends up getting taken in by Art Jefferson, the same character that starred in Cloudburst. It turns out that his wife Anne is one of Simon's physicians. They take him into foster care.

Meanwhile, the government agency that has developed this algorithm has decided Simon needs to be eliminated. They also enlist a hacker to make it look like Art Jefferson is a crooked agent. Not only is he being chased by government agents, he is also being chased by Keiko, a sadistic japanese torture artist (this character was actually removed from the film, probably because filming the scenes would be so bloody that they would freak a few people out).

This book has great pacing, and the story is over before you know it, but in a very satisfying way. I would say this book is better than Cloudburst but not by much.

I'm about to start Mercury Rising (the film) in 15 minutes, so that should be fun to watch and compare to the novel. I still need to write a quick review of The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Quicksilver - Neal Stephenson

Ok, this is not crime related, so I am just making a post more as a log rather than a review. Quicksilver is a sci-fi/historical drama that is the first part of The Baroque Cycle, a group of 8 novels gathered into 3 books.

The central figure is Dr. Daniel Waterhouse, a bystander to Isaac Newton and various other natural philosophers. The story also involves Jack Shaftoe, a vagabond and Eliza, Countess de la Zeur, a freed slave that ends up shaping monetary policy throughout Europe.

Overall, the story is sprawling in a Thomas Pynchon sort of way, but much more readable. A working knowledge of Eurpean history, calculus and physics will probably enhance the experience.

Up next is The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler. I've alread read it, but just need a little time to catch up. I'm currently reading Cloudburst by Ryne Douglas Pearson.