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Crime. Crime Writers. Crime Writing

The Affair: Lee Child

This Review posted by Sam Blake on 12 October 2011.

There are a few masters of the crime thriller, and Lee Child is one of them. The Affair is his 16th novel, and takes us right back to where Reacher began, to six months before his first smash hit novel The Killing Floor which won the Anthony Award in 1999. And the day The Affair was released was the day One Shot, Child’s 9th novel, much to the delight of Child’s fans, commenced filming with a solid gold A-list cast, including Tom Cruise as Reacher. I can’t wait to see it…

After 15 books, you might think Child knows all there is to know about Reacher, that the books might follow a similar path. But there really is no danger of this with Child, and The Affair is definitely one of his best, gripping, packed full of plot twists and turns. The dialogue jumps off the page – Reacher’s sardonic wit is deliciously funny in places, Child’s economy of phrase a joy to read. Like every Reacher book, he’s in a tough no holds barred situation, life or death with no middle way. And it is Reacher’s attention to detail, his incredible retention of that detail that gets him through. Here’s a classic Reacher moment:

He was a civilian, white, heavy, wearing a T-shirt with the sleeve rolled above a thick arm covered in fur and ink. He had long hair that hadn’t been washed for a week or more.

Three choices.

First, stop and chat.

Second, step into the weeds between the pavement and the ditch, and pass him by.

Third break his arm.

I chose the first option. I stopped. But I didn’t chat. Not immediately. I just stood there.

There was a second man in the passenger seat. Same type of a guy. Fur, ink, dirt, grease. But not identicial. A cousin, maybe but not a brother. Both men looked right at me, with the kind of smug, low-wattage insolence some kinds of strangers get in some kinds of bars. I looked right back at them. I’m not that kind of stranger.

The driver said, “Who are you and where are you going?”

I said nothing. I’m good at saying nothing. I don’t like talking. I could go the rest of my life without saying a word, if I had to.

The driver said, “I asked you a question.”

I thought: two questions, actually. But I said nothing. I didn’t want to have to hit the guy. Not with my hands. I’m no hygiene freak, but even so, with a guy like that, I would feel the need to wash afterwards, extensively, with good soap, especially if there was pie in my future….

So where does The Affair take Reacher this time?

It’s 1997, Reacher’s orders are: go undercover, keep your distance, monitor the investigation.

The local sheriff is Elizabeth Deveraux, a beautiful woman and an ex-Marine MP. She has all the skills she needs, but she’s making no progress. Why not? Is there a reason she doesn’t want the killer identified? And there’s constant pressure from the Pentagon, too. Shadowy figures from the world of politics want the killer unmasked—but only if he’s a civilian. Any other result would be a catastrophe. Reacher and Deveraux can’t get near the base. There’s a shadow force in the woods, enforcing a quarantine zone around the fence. But side by side they piece together the evidence—and their partnership becomes more than professional. Eventually the army’s official investigation produces a cast-iron prime suspect—and so does Reacher’s undercover search. But Reacher’s answer is not the same as the army’s.

If he keeps quiet, will he be able to live with himself? And if he speaks out, will the army be able to live with him?

If you enjoy a damn good page turner, a fast paced, great read, this book is for you. And if you haven’t read Lee Child, you’ve got a treat in store…start now, and you can catch up before the One Shot movie comes out…