Saturday, October 10, 2015

Review: THE AFFAIR by Lee Child

THE AFFAIR by Lee Child (Bantam, 2011)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

How did Jack Reacher become the itinerant hero fans know and love? Lee Child takes us back before the beginning in this exciting prequel to his mega-selling crime series. 

'Origin' tales have become very popular in recent times, as readers and viewers clamour to know more about their favourite characters and creators comply. It makes sense; one of the best things about crime fiction - and something that is becoming more prevalent in screen storytelling, with the rise of high quality television series- is the plethora of fantastic, recurring characters that populate the genre.

We read Agatha Christie for Poirot and Marple, Conan Doyle for Sherlock Holmes, Michael Connelly for Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller, Ian Rankin for Rebus, James Lee Burke for Dave Robicheaux, James Patterson for Alex Cross, Tess Gerritsen for Rizzoli and Isles...  The list goes on and on and on and on. Iconic characters whose adventures we follow, story after story, moving ever forward through life. Sometimes, it's nice to take a look back.

Since his debut in KILLING FLOOR in the late 1990s, wandering hero and former military cop Jack Reacher has grown into one of the most popular figures in international fiction. In THE AFFAIR, creator Lee Child takes us back before the beginning, to the case that marked a turning point in the younger Reacher’s military career, that sowed the seeds for who he would become; a prequel tale, if you will.

It is March 1997, six months before the beginning of KILLING FLOOR, and Reacher, still a Major in the military police, is sent undercover to Carter Crossing, Mississippi after a woman has her throat cut behind a bar, just down the road from a large US Army base that may be home to some secretive Special Forces squads. The local county sheriff, an attractive woman and former US marine, is getting nowhere with her investigation; is the Pentagon stonewalling her? Or is she not that keen to find the killer herself? What role has the Army played itself? Reacher is stuck in the middle, questioning everything, and unsure who to trust.

It's a time of budget constraints and pressures for the US Army - the Cold War has ended and the War on Terror has not yet begun. Bureaucrats are looking to slash costs, jobs are in jeopardy, and the scandal in Mississippi couldn't come at a worse time. Reacher's superiors are keen for the blame to fall elsewhere.

For me, THE AFFAIR is a pleasing return to form for Child, after the 'okay not great' WORTH DYING FOR. It's fascinating to get further insight into the enigmatic Reacher's backstory, particularly his Army days. There are plenty of action and thrills on offer for long-time fans in a book that's packed with intriguing characters and several nice twists. Overall, a very good read in a very good series.

I originally reviewed this book for Good Reading magazine in Australia back when it first came out in 2011. That review wasn't put online. I've now expanded on my thoughts from back then with this new, longer review. 

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