Lee Child’s thriller/mystery series features Jack Reacher, a 6 foot 5 inch former military policeman who know roams America carrying only the clothes on his back and a toothbrush. In many ways, he is reminiscent of the Lone Ranger (except he has no faithful sidekick).
Lee Child’s writing is spare and straightforward. There isn’t a lot of allusion or literary stylism, just good English sentences put together into sensible paragraphs in a way that serves the purpose perfectly.
Reacher is tremendously physically able, proficient at all forms of combat, armed and unarmed, and very very smart. In each novel, he runs into something evil, rights the evil, and moves on. In each novel, there is usually a love interest, which will be temporary, and some other good guys. Right and wrong are clearly delineated.
61 Hours features all the usual touches. In this case, the bad guy is a drug kingpin named Plato who lives in Mexico but directs events in many places. He is a truly nasty individual with no redeeming qualities. He mutilates and murders people at a whim, and blackmails good people by capturing their relatives and threatening them.
In 61 Hours the setting is a small town in South Dakota in winter, and the weather plays a featured role in the story.
The main plot of 61 Hours concerns a mysterious Army installation near the town that no one seems to know the purpose of, but which has been taken over by some bikers who are selling lots of crystal meth. There’s another plot regarding a lawyer who is being blackmailed to help set up a crime and name witnesses.
Reacher arrives by chance when a bus he is on has an accident. He is immediately involved in protecting an elderly woman who is a witness to some crime. His help is especially needed because the town made a deal to get a prison built nearby: When the siren goes off, every police officer in town has to go help at the prison, leaving no one guarding the town.
Then people start dying in mysterious ways.
61 hours adds one twist to the usual Lee Child novel. The whole book takes place over 61 hours, and Child inserts frequent reminders of how long is left until …. well, he doesn’t say what. I don’t think this adds much to the story. In reading a novel like this, we all know it will wind up at the end of the book. We can tell how many pages are left. The timer seems like a gimmick. Child doesn’t need this sort of thing – he’s a master of the type of book he writes.
In summary, if you’re looking for a literary novel full of psychological insight – this is not for you. If you’ve read other Reacher novels, you will probably react in similar ways to this one as to the earlier ones. And if you’ve never read one, you might as well start here. The series is in order, chronologically, but each novel stands on its own.