Monday, December 11, 2023

Bad Luck and Trouble - Lee Child

A number of years ago, I read the first book in the Jack Reacher series, KILLING FLOOR. I thought the opening was great and the rest of the book was okay, although the entire plot is driven by a coincidence that I found to be unbelievable. I enjoyed the book enough that I started several of the others in the series over the years, but every time I’d read a few chapters and say, “Nah.” None of them grabbed me enough to keep me reading.

Then a while back we watched the TV series REACHER (which happens to be based on KILLING FLOOR, by the way) and thought it was great, one of the best things we’ve watched in recent years. Alan Ritchson is perfectly cast as Reacher. So I thought, well, I ought to try one of the books again. I have e-book editions of several of them, bought when they were on sale. The second season of the TV series is based on the novel BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE, and I happened to have that one, so I figured why not.

As it turned out, I did finish this one. I raced through it, in fact, and enjoyed it for the most part. Maybe visualizing Ritchson as Reacher had something to do with that. He’s a great character, and Ritchson does a fantastic job in the role. The storyline involves some of the members of Reacher’s old army unit being murdered, so he gets together the survivors and they set out to discover what’s going on and get revenge for their friends.

Author Lee Child keeps things moving along at a very nice pace, and the dialogue is good, but the farther I read, the more I felt like there wasn’t really much going on. This book is almost 400 pages long, but it seemed like there was enough plot for about half that length. But Reacher’s a great character, so I kept turning the digital pages. The ending is satisfying up to a point but then turns into a huge letdown. If I’m going to read 400 pages, I want a slam-bang, even over-the-top climax that’s going to make me mentally stand up and cheer. That’s nowhere to be found in BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE.

(To digress for a moment, I ran into the exact same problem in the only one of the Tom Clancy continuation novels I’ve read. 600 pages, well-written, an interesting plot, lots of good scenes . . . and then the plot point that drives the entire book is disposed of literally in half a page. Half a page in which the only action occurs off-screen. That happened to be a physical book I was reading, and for one of the few times in my life, I was tempted to throw a book across the room. I didn’t, though.)

Anyway, to get back to Child and Reacher, I found enough to like in BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE that I want to read more in the series, and I found enough to dislike that I’m a little leery of continuing. I'm sure I'll try another one, but I’ll let a little time pass first.


Patrick Lee said...

I have read the Reacher books since the beginning but have gotten through only about half because of other reading including your books which are awesome. The Reachers are particular risky: the character of Reacher is always interesting and dependably written but the plots do vary wildly as does the action. And the stories do seem bloated with insignificant descriptions which try to create a detail oriented world but actually just seem to be fluff. On the whole, I think the TV series smartly excises those boring details, leaving the core interests which are Reacher and the conflicts. Yes give it time then dip your toe in again and as always YMMV.

Jeff Meyerson said...

The second series of the TV adaptation starts this Friday.

Regan MacArthur said...

I've had the same trouble with these books as you, I think. It takes too long to get where Lee Child is going and then you don't get sufficiently rewarded for hanging in there.

Mark Milliorn said...

If you have never actually thrown a book across the room, you've never tried to read Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses. I still think the fatwa from the Ayatollah was a scam to boost sales and the two men split the royalties.

James Reasoner said...

I've never read anything by Rushdie and don't expect to.