Killing Floor by Lee Child

September 6, 2009

killing floor Plot summary (with spoilers): Jack Reacher is an ex-MP who just got his walking papers six months ago after living abroad in the Army for 14 years. As he’s passing through the sleepy town of Margrave, GA, he’s picked up as a murder suspect. Someone matching his description was seen near a warehouse where a badly beaten body was discovered carelessly hidden under some debris. Reacher is held in the tiny jail and then shipped off to the prison until his alibi can be confirmed.

After barely escaping the weekend in prison with life and limb still intact, Reacher is ready to move on from Margrave — until he learns the identity of the murder victim. It’s his brother Joe. And even though Jack hasn’t talked to Joe in years, he feels he owes it to his big brother to get to the bottom of what happened and get some revenge. Thus, he sticks around to help Finlay, the Harvard-educated chief of detectives, and Roscoe, the female police officer, in their investigation.

As the three work together, they discover that Joe, who worked at the Treasury Department, was investigating a counterfeiting ring. The men have an idea who is involved, thanks to their own observations about how some important townsfolk are acting, but they need to uncover everyone’s identity before Sunday, when something major will happen in the operation.

The rest of the novel then deals with Reacher, Finlay, and Roscoe slowly working through clues and chasing down leads to try to figure out exactly what’s going on in Margrave and who’s behind all the trouble. Dead bodies continue to pile up, and their lives are in danger the entire time, but they manage to work it all out and emerge victorious in the end.

Liked:

  • The basic elements of the counterfeiting plot seemed pretty interesting. I liked the idea of the bad guys rounding up millions of dollars in singles, only to bleach them and reprint them as hundreds. There should have been more focus on that instead of just having it be an incidental detail.
  • The books started off well. I was able to get into it immediately, what with having the main character arrested for a murder he couldn’t possibly have committed. I also thought Reacher was cool at first, with the way he analyzed how the Margrave cops handled his arrest. Too bad these good feelings didn’t last long.

Disliked:

  • Latin is an inflected language, so E pluribus unum and E unum pluribus have the same exact meaning, regardless of the order in which they appear in the sentence. Child clearly fuddled with the Latin meaning just to make the phrase fit the plot of his book — which, as a former Latin student, bothered me to no end.
  • The writing was absolutely horrible. We’re talking amateur hour here. First, the sentences were very short and clipped, a style that Child retained throughout the entire book. That’s actually hard to read and made me put the book down out of frustration several times. Moreover, it seems as though Child didn’t even have an editor working with him. Here are a couple of sample sentences: “They know their boy was up to no good. They know he was doing something bad.” (Um, hello, those sentences mean the exact same thing!) And “Maybe thirty, but she looked older.” (This was about a character Reacher knew nothing about, so for him to utter these words made no sense at all. If she looked older than 30, then his impression should have been, “She looked to be in her mid-thirties” or something.)
  • Another thing that made zero sense was that Kliner and his men would just have $40 million in singles piled into a friggin’ mountain. They had to shut down operation for a year because of Coast Guard intervention, right? So in all that time, this billion-dollar counterfeiting ring just sat on their asses not doing a damn thing? They couldn’t have been boxing the money up in the interval so that it was ready to ship whenever? Yeah, riiiiiight.
  • And speaking of $40 million just sitting in those steel buildings, why wouldn’t Finlay and Reacher call in the proper authorities (i.e. the Feds) as soon as they figured out what was happening? I know they had to storm the place in order to rescue Roscoe and the Hubble family, but still… you’d think they’d at least call for friggin’ backup on an operation that huge.
  • I hated how Reacher was presented as some kind of superhero who could do no wrong. He took down every single opponent he encountered, no matter how outnumbered he was. The prison fight in particular was laughable. As if prison gang members would stand idly by while their leader was getting his ass kicked. How stupid!
  • I’m so sure that Roscoe would want to sleep with Reacher the moment he got out of jail after being cleared of murder charges. She didn’t even know him, so even if he wasn’t a killer, that didn’t mean he was safe. He was still just a homeless drifter as far as she was concerned.
  • I’m going to stop my list here, but believe me, there were plenty of other problems with this book!

Rating:
I wanted to read Killing Floor by Lee Child because I noticed that the eighth or ninth Jack Reacher novel made it to No. 1 on the NY Times Bestseller list earlier this year. I figured that any series that has nine books in it would be decent, but I was clearly wrong about that. Killing Floor is one of the absolute worst “thrillers” I’ve EVER read in my life. It was beset with problems and annoyances from beginning to end and never redeemed itself. I give it 1 star out of 5.

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