“61 Hours” by Lee Child is the fourteenth book in the Jack Reacher series. This series can suck you in for sure. Jack Reacher is a great character and it is especially fun to watch him when he puts himself on a mission to protect. His ability to forge connections with all sorts of people is pretty astounding when you consider his general dislike for most people and his rather intimidating stature. But under that hard exterior is a guy that just wants to see justice prevail.
When “61 Hours” opens, Reacher is on a bus that is driving though South Dakota on a slippery road. His fellow travelers are older folks and when the bus swerves to avoid another car on the road, Reacher steps up and takes charge. He recognizes the situation as precarious if action isn’t taken. After all, it is winter and the bus is full of elderly people. It is this take-charge attitude that leads Reacher to fall into his latest role of unofficial security for a witness. The witness, Janet Salter, that Reacher begins protecting is one of those genuinely good people, simply trying to do the right thing. Which is rare. The relationship Reacher develops with Janet is quite entertaining and at times, endearing.
The different people Reacher encounters in “61 Hours” are on two opposite ends of a spectrum. There are those that grew up in this small town and have spent their whole lives here, and then there are the newcomers. The once small town has been faced with a unique challenge when they have a prison built right up the road. Suddenly they have increased traffic and there are strangers in town. And when dead bodies start showing up, the police force that is already divided between the old and the new are now faced with an even bigger situation that they haven’t had to deal with before. And then Reacher comes to town. “They frighten people. Simply by being there, I think, and by being different. They are the other. Which is inherently disturbing, apparently. In practice, they do us no overt harm. We exist together in an uneasy standoff. But I can’t deny an undercurrent of menace.” (61 Hours, pg 131). This quote is referencing some of the bikers that have come to town since the prison was built, but I think it is an interesting perspective of how people in a small town would feel towards anyone that is a newcomer. It illustrates the prejudice that Reacher faces whenever he comes to a new place. He is the other.
I think it’s impressive how Lee Child is able to write fourteen books following this one character and still capture his readers from the first page and keep that grip until the very last page. He leaves you wanting more too. Thus far, this series does not feel formula, which is no small feat. I continue to relish his writing.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely! Reacher is an amazing character, as I’ve said before. And the fact that these books keep you wanting to come back for more is a true testament to the quality of Lee Child’s writing. I’m very eager to pick up the next book in the series.