“The Affair” by Lee Child

Delacorte Press, New York, 2012

You probably know by now that I love the Jack Reacher series of mystery/adventure books by Lee Child. I like them so much that I have a different scale for them when reviewing them. “The Affair” is about a 4 out of 10 on the Reacher scale but a 7 out of 10 on the generic book scale.

The reasons I like this book are the usual Jack Reacher ones: it is well-written, it has a lot of twists and turns, it has a beautiful woman that Reacher beds, it has Reacher easily winning a 6-on-1 fist fight and it has Jack Reacher giving attitude (and getting away with it) to everyone he meets. In this book, set in 1997, he is still in the army and is assigned to sniff around the periphery of a murder investigation in a small town in Mississippi that the army fears may implicate a soldier from the nearby Fort Kelham army base.

The reasons that I don’t like this book are that (1) the plot is thinner than usual, (2) the resolution, though final because the perp ends up dead, is unsatisfying because the logic that ties him to the victim(s) is tenuous and (3) the violence is more gratuitous than usual. At one point Reacher kills a militiaman just to “send a message” to the rest of the militia force. Strong message, sure, but necessary? Hardly.

Related to the gratuitous violence is the ease with which Reacher gets away with his bad behavior. He commits multiple felonies (including the aforesaid murder) with the full knowledge – and in some cases in the company of – the local sheriff, yet is never charged in any of them.

I like Reacher, but I need him to be more hero and less thug.

7 out of 10

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