Lee Child changes a few things up with his second Jack Reacher book, DIE TRYING, but he keeps his core strengths — his titular character and great action.
Whereas the first book, KILLING FLOOR, was a first-person novel, DIE TRYING is told from the third person as we hop from a variety of different points of view. The story is interesting, as we watch Reacher figure out his situation after he and an attractive FBI agent are kidnapped outside a Chicago dry cleaner’s. As the plot moves forward, Reacher figures things out piece by piece, occasionally making mistakes but slowly working his way toward answers.
Again, Child populates his world with interesting people. Obviously Reacher is the main attraction here, but his fellow good guys and the villains they oppose are enjoyable, if not necessarily multidimensional.
The plot felt stronger in DIE TRYING than it was in KILLING FLOOR, which at times relied too heavily on outlandish coincidences. This time, Child opens the book with just such a coincidence, as Reacher stumbles into a kidnapping and gets picked up along with the target, almost as though Child is daring his critics to complain further. Fortunately, the rest of the story seemed to flow more easily.
I also noticed the short, choppy sentence structure Child used isn’t as prevalent — a change I appreciated. As to whether Child will return to that style of prose in future books, I guess I’ll find out.
I like action movies. I liked the Jack Reacher movie, even if I heard several times that Tom Cruise was miscast as the titular hero. So it’s probably no surprise that I liked KILLING FLOOR, even as I realized that I wasn’t exactly reading high literature.
Reacher is obviously the cornerstone of the story, an observant outsider with military police experience and the size and combat skills to lay waste to his enemies. He’s a one-man guerrilla army facing off against merciless bad guys who deserve all the punishment Reacher brings their way.
Child’s writing is best in the action scenes, where his short, choppy sentences complement quick actions. Throughout the rest of the story, the staccato rhythm of his sentences demonstrate Reacher’s unusual demeanor and thought processes — straight-forward with no extraneous words or ideas. It’s the kind of prose that doesn’t win praise, but shows an understanding of Reacher’s character.
The plot relies heavily on a series of coincidences, which takes away from the story if you take too much time to reflect on what you’ve read. In that way, this book really is like an action movie. We move from one scene to the next in quick succession, with all the action you could ever hope to see in a big-budget summer flick, and if you think about it too much, you’re probably missing the point.
Bad guys do bad things. Someone needs to stop them, and Jack Reacher steps to the plate. It’s a revenge novel, and Reacher is the perfect weapon for a reader who wants the bad guys to get their comeuppance.
It took me a little bit of time to fully dive into the world of PROMISE OF BLOOD, but it didn’t take long for me to become fully engaged in a fantasy world that was completely different from anything else I’ve read before.
The story revolves around Tamas, a military commander who overthrows his king; his son, Taniel; and Adamat, an inspector Tamas hires to solve the mysteries that surround him as he attempts to establish a new government with enemies on all sides. McClellan does an excellent job of giving you a sense that each of these characters has a rich backstory full of powerful events that took place before the book ever started, allowing interesting aspects of their personalities to display themselves throughout the story. Even the secondary stories are fully realized, giving the story a welcome depth.
The story includes a number of different magic systems and I’m not sure I entirely understand them all, I really enjoyed many of our main characters’ abilities to use gunpowder to fuel their magic, as well as seeing the limitations of those magical abilities. It’s all very well thought out, and I have a feeling that as I read future books I’ll learn even more about the rules that govern magic in this world.
While the magic is strong, for me, it’s always about the characters, and I found myself enjoying all three of the main POV characters. McClellan does an excellent job of surrounding all three with interesting, likeable secondary characters I always want to learn just a bit more about.
I’ve already noticed that McClellan has several short stories for sale on the Amazon Kindle store, so I may read one or two to tide me over until THE CRIMSON CAMPAIGN publishes next month.