Hello Internet. Welcome back for Review #10. This week I look at a genre which I can’t say I like very much at all. But you know,when it comes to books, I can’t say I’m one to judge. That was sarcasm. I judge books all the time.
I’d be the first to admit that when crime is mentioned as a novel theme, I’m skeptical. Crime is one of the most popular book genres, right up their near romance, fantasy and sci-fi. And of course, like all popular genres, this means that it is so easy to write terribly for this genre and get it published, because some publishers clearly can’t read and leave it to the author to decide if their book is going to be the next “To Kill a Mockingbird”. And if it isn’t popular it will get hidden under the avalanche of other crime novels out there, and the author can snivel up into a little ball and try accounting like his cousin always suggested.
So no, I’m not a big crime reader. But when it is done well (once every millennium, when the stars align properly and the gateway to the ether is blurred), crime can actually be really freaking awesome. And of course, there always has to be a generous helping of guns, extreme violence, threat of imminent and impending death and a crime hero so tough he could get a job being driveway paving full-time. Jack Reacher fills this void perfectly, with just enough stuffing coming out of the edges to wipe off with your finger and taste test.
The protagonist is your everyday professional killer, an ex-army action hero out of his time, with a taste for fast women and huge bullets. He identifies himself as a loner, a wayward vagabond without a home, spare shirt or mobile phone. He literally carries around nothing but a coat and a toothbrush. He has no family, no next-of-kin, no middle name and no ties at all to this earth. And a sense of cocky street-smarts that make him able to bust a crime forgery ring while saving his girlfriend and busting some illegal heads.
The story is a smarter version of an action movie plot. The criminals are intelligent and cunning, and the methods they use to fulfil their evil ends are… creative, to say the least. People die in gruesome ways, but not too often to make you think you stepped into a horror novel by mistake. The hero is almost always working against the clock, and the pressure is always on. The book takes the time to ramp up the tension with the hero either evading the authorities or the crime henchmen, with the final warehouse showdown choreographed to the millisecond.
You know, maybe other genres have to learn from crime novels. They aren’t afraid to be ballsy. The heroes are tested to their limits. The villains are truly scary, [in the “you will get your testicles cut off and fed to your wife before we nail you to the wall” way]. And the supporting cast is kept interesting purely because they will serve as important plot points later on, and the author needs you to get interested in them because then you care more when they die or double-cross the protagonist, usually against their best interests in personal safety.
Jack Reacher: Killing Floor was published in 1997 by Putnam. It can be found on Amazon here.
Yours: J.M. Pear