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by Lee Child
Penguin, May 1999
434 pages
ISBN: 0515125024

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This is not one of Lee Child's newer books. It was published in hardcover in 1998, came out in paperback in 1999. I believe it was the second in the Jack Reacher series. The reason I bought this one rather than the first or a later one is that I have a shirt to match it.

Let me explain. Last year my dentist went on vacation to a place called Die Trying in Baja. He saw a T-shirt thus inscribed and decided to bring it home to give me because he knew all of my mystery series titles had death or dying in the title. He thought I might like to use the title on a future book. But Lee was ahead of me. Most people are. Sigh.

Probably you've all read this book long ago, but I'm going to write about it anyway, because it's a terrific book and if you haven't read it, you should.

The word that kept coming to my mind as I read this book was "Weltanschauung." (Well, that's the kind of mind I have.) Using that word in a sentence sounds a bit pretentious so I'll say Worldview or Philosophy of Life instead. Some authors have a worldview that amazes me. I guess mine is a bit narrow. Lee Child's is not.

I'm not the only reader who says so. Playboy said of this book, "This is such a brilliantly written novel that Child must be channeling Dashiell Hammett...Reacher handles the maze of clues and the criminal unfortunates with a flair that would make Sam Spade proud." (I bet some of our members didn't even know that Playboy wrote reviews! )

What we have in this book is nothing short of bad guys attempting to take over the U.S. It starts off with a bit of a coincidence, which is something we've been discussing on DL lately. Jack is about to pass a Chicago dry cleaner's when a woman exits the place and stumbles into him because of her injured leg. As he catches her and supports her, two men show up with guns and push them into a car. They've been waiting for the woman, Holly Johnson, an FBI agent, planning to kidnap her because of her relationship with a couple of very important people.

I've no objection to coincidences at the beginning of a story as long as there's no deus ex machina ending. I love the way Lee Child addresses the topic right away: "He had no problem with how he had gotten grabbed up in the first place. Just a freak of chance had put him alongside Holly Johnson at the exact time the snatch was going down. He was comfortable with that. He understood freak chances. Life was built out of freak chances, however much people would like to pretend otherwise."

The people who have snatched Jack and Holly belong to a Montana based Militia group with a totally psycho leader who can kill whoever he feels it's necessary to kill without hesitation or a single qualm.

Under the circumstances of Jack and Holly's subsequent incarceration, it's not surprising that they bond, and there's considerable sexual tension between these two tough people. It's fairly clear however that this will not lead to the two of them walking happily off into the sunset.

There's action galore in this novel, and a great deal of violence, but it's straightforward and I didn't have to read with my eyes closed very often. I like Jack Reacher. He's an action hero with a conscience and compassion--a nice guy who doesn't hesitate to get down and dirty when it's necessary. The author provides a lot of technical information about guns and the fight scenes are detailed, which I found interesting, and there's certainly plenty of suspense. The viewpoint switches between Jack and Holly to the people in D.C. and Chicago trying to find them, to the bad guys. This makes for a fast paced, involving story.

I read "Die Trying" on the plane bringing me cross-country from Birmingham Alabama, where I'd just met Lee Childs, who is also a nice guy. I didn't quite finish it before I reached Seattle, but it certainly made the journey pass quickly.

I suppose now I'll have to read more of the Jack Reacher novels--in spite of the size of my tbr pile.

Reviewed by Meg Chittenden, February 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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