Killing Floor is the first book in the internationally popular Jack Reacher series. It presents Reacher for the first time, as the tough ex-military cop of no fixed abode: a righter of wrongs, the perfect action hero. Jack Reacher jumps off a bus and walks fourteen miles down a country road into Margrave, Georgia. An arbitrary decision he's about to regret. Reacher is the only stranger in town on the day they have had their first homicide in 30 years. The cops arrest Reacher and the police chief turns eyewitness to place him at the scene. As nasty secrets leak out, and the body count mounts, one thing is for sure: They picked the wrong guy to take the fall.
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I saw the Tom Cruise film and, to my surprise, enjoyed Jack Reacher as a character. This drove me online and, again to my suprise, I discovered there were numerous novels (18 to date and a novella due out in August 2013) written by Lee Childs, that the movie is based on one of the middle ones (One Shot) and that the devoted fan following were up in arms at the casting of Cruise in the principal role and the selection of One Shot as the first movie. Now my interest was truly sparked, so I searched out this title, the first chrologically in the series (although there are a number of prequels). I can now understand the fans concern (although I thought Cruise did a good job in the film). Reacher is meant to be 6' 4" in the old terms, 200 lbs plus. This ain't Cruise! Also, Reacher's ethics are personal, not communal. He has no compunction shooting someone in the back or giving someone a count of 2 when he's promised a count of 3. He is happy to be prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner. He has no false morality and such morality as he does have is more vigilante than Virgil. For all that he remained an interesting study, although I kept thinking of the part in the film where Cruise throws away the gun and dukes it out with the shooter. I don't know if that's in One Shot", but it just isn't the Reacher of this title. He'd've just shot him. Dead and done. I found the plot interesting but a lot of the violence gratutious. The love interest (Roscal, I'm not sure of the spelling, but that's what it sounds like) was a bit two dimensional, too. I like the Finlay character (a black, Harvard Grad' cop coming off a dodgey marriage). Dick Hill did him a bit like the Judge Little character in Presumed Innocent (the film), which was a bit stereo-typical. The villian was completely unredeeming, too. As for the text, it is a bit Raymond Chandler/Marlowe like, in the first person, throuch Reachers eyes andchock full of similes - "his mind was scrambling around like kittens in a sack"; "like a puppett with the strings cut". I quite liked that, although it is hard to take when Reacher is violent (which is often) because it makes you accomplice to his justification (normally, "you started this" or "the end justifies the means"). As for Dick Hill's performance, his characters were distinct and real enough. I have mentioned Finlay, already. Reacher was a bit Bogart in "The Maltese Falcon" (perpetuating the Marlowe theme) and Roscal, Southern Belle. These were fine, but don't rise above what you'd expect from such an accomplished narrator. All up, a good holiday read. I don't think I'll be reading any more of these except in that vein. However, in that highly popular genre, it's as good as many other serialised anti-hero thriller. Not Harry Hole (by Jo Nesbo) or Chandler for that matter, but better than many others.
I'm obviously late discovering Jack Reacher, brought to him by the publicity around Cruise's movie (although only the weirdness of Hollywood would cast 5' 7'' Cruise to play 6' 5'' Reacher).
I listened to "Killing Floor" flying across the Atlantic and back. It was the perfect airplane read: fast pace, ingenious plot, lots of action and simple, clear prose.
But what sets the book apart is the Jack Reacher's "voice". He's more than an action hero. He has a world view all of his own and more than a few flaws. I'm not at all surprised to find that he spawned a long series of best selling books. I'm not sure I like him but I find him believable. more than a little scary and yet, somehow, also quite vulnerable. He's a man who has made himself a loner, detached from most emotions other than anger. willing to kill evil-doers without a second thought and yet driven to do what he thinks is the right thing in a charmingly old-fashioned way. He's a sort of anti-hero with a code of honor.
This is not the deepest of books but it delivers what it promises on every page.
If you're in the mood to escape into a world where a calm-but-deadly loner reluctantly but bravely takes the fight to the bad guys, this one is for you. But be warned, the violence is graphic, imaginative, convincing, memorable and frequent.