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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

61 Hours

Lee Child

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To purchase 61 Hours

Title: 61 Hours
Author: Lee Child
Genre: Novel
Written: 2010
Length: 494 pages
Availability: 61 Hours - US
61 Hours - UK
61 Hours - Canada
61 heures - France
61 Stunden - Deutschland
L'ora decisiva - Italia
  • The fourteenth Jack Reacher novel

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Our Assessment:

B+ : basic, but very effective

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Entertainment Weekly A- 12/5/2010 Thom Geier
Financial Times . 29/3/2010 Christopher Fowler
The Guardian . 2/4/2010 John O'Connell
The Independent . 19/3/2010 Andy Martin
The NY Times A 13/5/2010 Janet Maslin
The Observer . 13/3/2010 Euan Ferguson

  From the Reviews:
  • "Child is a superb craftsman of suspense, juggling several plots and keeping his herrings well-rouged. He doesnít need the 24-like conceit suggested by the title as he counts down to the final confrontation -- but itís not a major distraction. Best of all, this is a rare series book that reads like a stand-alone. Everything you need to know about Jack Reacher is contained within its pages." - Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly

  • "As always with Child, the hook is smart, the plot possibilities are given a thorough workout, and the tension bites as hard as the South Dakota windchill. " - Christopher Fowler, Financial Times

  • "(I)t's his intuitive understanding of the physical world of traction and flammability and blast radii that makes him so good at anticipating danger -- and such entrancing, educational company." - John O'Connell, The Guardian

  • "Qualms notwithstanding, it is always a pleasure to read another Jack Reacher novel." - Andy Martin, The Independent

  • "(T)he 14th, craftiest and most highly evolved of Lee Childís electrifying Jack Reacher books (.....) What heats 61 Hours to the boiling point is Mr. Childís decision to defy his own conventions. In the interests of pure gamesmanship he seems hellbent on doing everything differently this time. (...) The title countdown in 61 Hours is such a hackneyed device that it has no business working so well. But it does work, thanks to Mr. Childís vigorous surge of reinvention." - Janet Maslin, The New York Times

  • "It gets very odd, and very cold, and very nasty, and Reacher doesn't walk away as before (this is the first Child novel that ends: To Be Continued)." - Euan Ferguson, The Observer

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       61 Hours finds Jack Reacher marooned in the city of Bolton, South Dakota, in absolutely freezing temperatures. It's bad luck and pure chance: he hitched a ride with a tour bus of senior citizens on their way to Mount Rushmore, but right around Bolton the bus had skidded off the road, and everyone is stuck in Bolton, at least for a day or two. The surprisingly large police department is well-organized, and they efficiently take care of the seniors; they're more suspicious of Reacher, but even though his story is a bit unusual -- he's traveling light (basically, with nothing), and without any apparent purpose -- they ultimately aren't unduly concerned about him. But, as Reacher recognizes, they are concerned about something: "They've got problems of their own". Yes, Jack Reacher has again stumbled (or slipped) into a much, much more treacherous situation than the out of the way, sleepy (and deep-frozen) locale initially suggests.
       A city of about twelve-thousand, Bolton is now on the map, thanks to a new federal prison facility -- which also includes a state penitentiary and the local county jail. An economic magnet, of sorts -- all the local motels are full with visitors, for example -- it's also meant the police department has doubled in size, with many new faces. And one of the consequences of this huge and just recently completed construction project was that they built a camp for the workers nearby, where there used to be an army facility -- and when the workers were done a group of bikers settled in there. Over a hundred of them now, dealing meth. And the police haven't been able to touch them -- no probable cause for a search warrant, and, inconveniently, the bikers seem to be pretty careful: there haven't been any of those explosions meth-labs are generally so prone to .....
       Now, however, the locals have a toehold -- what promises to be an in. They have a suspect awaiting trial for a drug deal that a local witnessed. But the trial is a month or so away, and they're worried about the safety of the witness -- a septuagenarian former librarian named Janet Salter. They think -- correctly -- that someone is out to get her, so that the case collapses, and so they're very much on the lookout for outsiders suddenly showing up in their town. Like Reacher.
       Old Chief Tom Holland seems a bit out of his depth, but he has a bright deputy in Andrew Peterson who sizes Reacher up correctly -- and recognizes that he might be useful:

I think he's the sort of guy who sees things five seconds before the rest of the world.
       Meanwhile, there are also brief glimpses from a warmer place, a hundred miles from Mexico City, where the ruthless but ultra-successful drug lord known as Plato is handling things -- including issuing instructions for some of those on the ground in Bolton. Plato is almost comically diminutive, but he has big, big plans, and they involve things in Bolton. And those who work for him are very, very careful to do exactly as they're told: Plato is not someone you want to cross. (His small size seems a bit of a stretch, but it also turns out to be advantageous in an unexpected way down the line -- a bit lazily too-convenient in this otherwise tight story, but not egregious enough to really be annoying.)
       When a lawyer identified as the one passing instructions to and from the jail is found neatly killed, the tension rises. The old librarian is well-protected, round the clock, by a big team of police officers -- but there is one problem: an agreement the police department has with the prison is that if the siren goes off, signaling a riot or escape, then the entire force, down to the last man, drops whatever they're doing and takes up pre-assigned positions. (It doesn't seem entirely plausible, but .....) And, as Peterson explains to Reacher, it's an iron-clad part of their deal and they have no choice, and so:
If the siren goes off, we drop everything and head north. All of us. Which means if that siren goes off anytime in the next month, we leave Janet Salter completely unprotected.
       (Three guesses as to whether the siren ever goes off .....)
       So, of course, Reacher makes it his business to protect the librarian-witness, and try to get to the bottom of things. Because other things are hard to explain, too. There's that odd structure that the military must have built at the camp where the bikers are. And then there's the bikers, suddenly bugging out, in neat and orderly fashion, abandoning the place -- even though there is obviously something, or maybe a lot, worth quite a lot there, and some large-scale transaction obviously still being planned (as readers also know from Plato's actions).
       Reacher reaches out to try to learn what the secret of the locked structure might be, getting in contact with the 110th Special Unit -- the very one he was first commanding officer of, back in his army days. In a nice back and forth over a few days Reacher and the new CO, a woman new to the job but who inherited Reacher's office, complete with his old desk with a big dent in it, try to figure out what the military built out there in South Dakota, and what there might still be of value there -- while also sounding each other out. The flirtation is all verbal, the two separated by well over a thousand miles, but there are definitely some sparks between the two, making for a neat variation on Reacher's usual fleeting romances in his travels. It's one of several variations from the usual script that make 61 Hours a stand-out in the series.
       61 Hours impressively avoids the usual Jack-against-the-world fights (recounted in slo-mo ...), limiting the physical confrontations he has. Yes, there is one early on where he shows his stuff, but it's a long time coming before he has to fight anyone else -- though he's certainly on edge a fair amount of the time, aware that danger lurks nearby, even as he can't quite put his finger on (or fist through) it. The novel definitely benefits from the lack of fight scenes -- even as the bodies pile up. Neatly killed by a professional, the deaths and the difficulty everyone has figuring out how they could have happened, nicely heightens the suspense. Of course, Child can't entirely hold back and has to end things with one hell of a bang -- initially interpreted by the North American Air Defense Command: "as either a missile launch or a missile strike" ... -- but on the whole it's a hell of an ending.
       What really makes 61 Hours, however, is its lack of sentimentality. These are mostly really good people -- Peterson is a pro, and deserving future police chief, and the librarian a bit too good to be true (at least as far as her résumé goes) but otherwise a great character, and the CO Reacher banters with another person worthy of him -- but Child doesn't go for the easy, happy conclusions. Even where most folks are doing the right things, and where Reacher is almost on top of everything, bad things happen. That extends even to Reacher, whose own fate, at the end of the novel, is (entirely) unresolved; readers will certainly expect him to rise from the ashes, so to speak -- obviously, by now, since the series has added more than a dozen installments since -- but there's no indication here of that yet.
       Yes, 61 Hours is also a countdown novel, the action packed into those sixty-one hours, the time remaining brought up like clockwork -- with barely a clue, however, all along, as to what is being counted down to. It's a bit simplistic, but Child weaves it in quite well here; it doesn't get annoying, and there are times it helps add to the suspense (as there are also other countdowns along the way).
       Dialogue-heavy, with short and to-the-point sentences, in both speech and description, 61 Hours at times feels even more basic -- more primal, in its language and presentation -- than most of the Reacher novels. At times, it's too reduced, too basic. But overall, it works well: 61 Hours is a good thriller, and good read.

- M.A.Orthofer, 4 December 2019

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61 Hours: Reviews: Lee Child: Other books by Lee Child under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       British author Lee Child was born in 1954.

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© 2019-2024 the complete review

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