Thursday, June 9

Gone Tomorrow – Lee Child

Drifting righter of wrongs Jack Reacher is in New York City for, as usual, no particular reason. At two AM there are half a dozen people in his subway carriage – and passenger number four, a black-clad white woman in her forties, is making Reacher’s intelligence-trained alarm bells ring. Though it seems bizarre, because of the timing if nothing else, she meets enough points on the Israeli eleven-point checklist (twelve for men) to mark her as a possible suicide bomber.
Reacher’s attempt to stop her desperate action has far-reaching consequences – though his read was a false positive, a woman dies and that starts Reacher off on another mission, to uncover why an ordinary suburban woman would attempt something drastic and markedly out of character.
Like the author who introduced me to the genre, the estimable Bagley, Childs combines a seemingly EveryMan (who is far from average) with a tense, topical plot, a little sex and good writing to create a coherent, absorbing, readable whole. And, like Bagley, he includes tidbits of fascinating information, some of which is relevant to the plot ahead and some of which appears to be there just for the joy of knowledge. In Gone Tomorrow these nuggets include subway surfing, rats, and a disturbing insight into the startling sadism of Afghan women against their enemies, with a quote from Kipling:
When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Just roll to your rifle and blow out your brains,
And go to your God like a soldier.
As is so often the case in Childs’ work, there are occasional scenes and passage that shine, like this:
“And I read a book that figured the part about the virgins is a mistranslation. The word is ambiguous. It comes in a passage full of food imagery. Milk and honey. It probably means raisins. Plump, and possibly candied or sugared.”
“They kill themselves for raisins?”
”I’d love to see their faces.”
…”And why would a woman want virgins anyway? A lot of sacred texts are mistranslated. Especially where virgins are concerned. Even in the New Testament, probably. Some people say Mary was a first time mother, that’s all. From the Hebrew word. Not a virgin. The original writers would laugh, seeing what we made of it all."
In Gone Tomorrow those are the things I remember more than the plot - though I was left with a strong sense of New York City, sufficient that I could navigate parts of Manhattan quite well, the plot itself is considerably fainter. The arc of some of Childs' novels has stayed with me for quite some time after I closed the page; this is not one of those, but I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. - Alex

The Jack Reacher novels
Killing Floor; Die Trying; Tripwire; The Visitor; Echo Burning; Without Fail; Persuader;The Enemy; One Shot;The Hard Way; Bad Luck and Trouble; Nothing to Lose; Gone Tomorrow; 61 Hours; Worth Dying For

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