Tour’s Books Blog

December 1, 2010

Book Review: Worth Dying For by Lee Child

Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books blow hot and cold, but the last couple have been decent reads and this one delivers a well paced story that follows the typical formula for a Reacher story.  In most of his recent books, Reacher is the loner who lives by his own brand of right and wrong who ends up pitted against a local very bad guy – or guys in this case.  A single act of charity has far reaching effects because the bad guys are just too stupid leave the man alone.

  • Title: Worth Dying For
  • Author:  Lee Child
  • Type:  Action thriller
  • Genre:  Mid-west white slavers and local bad guys try to intimidate Reacher
  • Sub-genre:  Loner extracts his own justice
  • My Grade: C+ to B- (3.5*)
  • Rating:  PG-13 to NC-17 for violence
  • Length and price:  Full novel 90,000 words for $28.00 with 40-60% discounts available
  • Where Available:  book available at any bookstore
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased from online bookstore

At the end of 61 Hours, Reacher is fleeing a vast underground explosion, his ultimate fate unknown.  For some reason Worth Dying For resolves only the question of is he alive or dead and none of the other loose threads from 61 hours.  An injured but intact Reacher arrives in a remote town in Nebraska and takes a room at the only place in town, a tacky space age ’60’s motel.  The lone occupant of the lounge bar turns out to be the local doctor who refuses the call of a woman with a nose bleed that won’t stop.  Reacher, largely intolerant of failure to fulfill obligations, forces the issue and drives the doctor to the woman’s house to treat her.  This sets off a chain of events that has Reacher learning about the Duncan’s, the local family that controls all trucking, including moving crops of the locals and goods coming into town, so everyone keeps quiet and does what they say, or they risk getting ‘punished’.

Reacher drops off the frightened, but still drunk doctor, at his home and the fear he, his wife and the woman who was treated radiate is palpable.  But Reacher is Reacher and despite what is said, he takes the doctor’s car and finds the steakhouse where the abusive husband is dining and punches him out.  With that act, the 3 older Duncan’s decide that Reacher must be taken care of.  They send two of their ex-Cornhuskers football players to beat him up, and Reacher cripples them both.  After being thrown out of the motel on the Duncan’s orders, Reacher gets back in to sleep and is caught by an older woman who is the motel housekeeper.  After some convincing, she takes Reacher to her house and feeds him breakfast.  The curious Reacher questions what’s going on and everything shifts when he learns the cause of the old rift between Dorothy and the Duncan’s.

From there it’s pure Reacher.  He kicks ass and slowly uncovers more and more of what the Duncan’s are hiding.  Meanwhile, the man in Vegas that’s taking the shipment from the Duncans is caught in a food chain crosshairs.  The Duncans supply Rossi and he supplies the Iranian and the Iranian supplies the Saudi who has customers who are angry about the delays.  This results in the thugs killing each other in an attempt to shorten the food chain and increase profit.  There’s a sort of Three Stooges quality to the thugs – all are stereotypes.

Despite the shortcomings, Child once again set a fast pace and Reacher kicks butt and the bad guys get theirs.  The Duncans aren’t as creepy as many of his villains, but their crimes are more repulsive.  That’s one of the plot problems.  In keeping the extent of what the Duncans are doing in the background, they become more classic criminal rather than the monsters they are, a major missed opportunity and something that would have given the book more depth.  It also makes the usual cat-and-mouse that villain and hero play in the Reacher books less interesting.  The clues are obvious, but the action is done well enough that the book remains interesting and readable.

Think of Worth Dying For as a kind of Spenser or Shane.  Shallow, action filled, but without the black humor that’s a hallmark of the Spenser series.  While Child has gotten Reacher back on track after a few real lemons, he’s never recaptured the complexity and compelling plots of his first 8 to 9 books.

Is Worth Dying For worth $28 at 40-60% off?  Not really.  Borrow from the library or wait for the paperback or remainder sales.  A good read, but not a great one.

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