Monday, April 29, 2019


by Kat Richardson
Recommended Ages: 15+

Seattle private eye Harper Blaine doesn't like spirit mediums, which is kind of funny, considering that she sees dead people. Nevertheless, she learns to respect one in this adventure, when they are brought together by a client whose sister has been exhibiting weird symptoms while lying in a persistent vegetative state. For example, the sister sits up in bed, grabs paints and a brush, and creates photo-realistic paintings of a place that nobody in the house can remember seeing before – yet that strikes Harper as familiar, somehow. It's like watching a marionette being controlled by a puppeteer.

Harper's investigation leads her to two more strange cases of local people who fell into persistent vegetative states around the same time, and who also seem to be calling out for help. Being a greywalker, in touch with the denizens of the Other Side and the In Between, Harper notices that there is a lot of abnormal ghost activity surrounding these people. This only adds to the weirdness of the behavior of three people whose condition, all by itself, is so rare that it shouldn't be statistically possible to find three such patients in a city the size of Seattle. Apparently, somebody, by which I mean something, is getting ready to make a big move in the gray (or rather, Grey) area between life and death, and it's probably going to mess things up for the people living (or not living) on both sides.

Meanwhile, Harper's main squeeze is having daddy issues. Quinton's dad is a super spy who has gone off the reservation, and is now trying to develop a project involving supernatural beings. While Quinton tries to sabotage whatever nefarious plot his father has in hand, Harper also receives a summons from one of her past clients, now the alpha vampire of the SeaTac metropolitan area, who is concerned about the disappearance of a, how do you say, pre-chrysalis vampire. Someone, somehow, has subverted the up-and-coming vamp's loyalty, creating a dangerous situation for the urban undead. As Harper's two lines of investigation become increasingly intertwined, she finds herself partnering not just with a genuine medium but also with a creature of the night, whom anyone would rather have as an ally than an enemy.

So, the dead and the undead of Seattle are definitely showing signs of great disturbance; and when they're disturbed, you're disturbed. Try it, and you'll agree. While Harper juggles romance, friendship, and the maintenance of a frisky pet ferret with her responsibilities as the guardian on the living side of the Grey, she must also race against the rapidly closing window of survival on three desperately imperiled victims, the swift approach of a soul-devouring evil, and whatever despicable thing her sort-of-father-in-law has planned. Plus, she has it on the authority of an immortal necromancer that simply killing the jerk won't solve anything. She's dealing with deep magic, and as the manifestations in the old part of town grow grimmer, she realizes that the world as she knows it is in deep trouble. It's the kind of challenge Harper Blaine has often risen to, and rise to it she does again, with a passion and urgency lightened by just the right amount of dry wit. Monsters take note: don't mess with this girl.

This is the eighth of nine Greywalker novels, combining private detective fiction with the paranormal. The next (and to date latest) installment is Revenant.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Avengers: Endgame

Avengers: Endgame – This sequel to that Avengers movie that killed off half of the known universe - but, coincidentally, not one member of the Avengers - brings to an end the storylines of some of the current Marvel film franchise's storied heroes, but otherwise sets everything to right. I mean, how could it not? Other, that is, than not happening at all and just leaving the observable universe, and Marvel superherodom, in the very depressing place where it was at the end of Avengers: Infinity War. Which was almost depressing enough to make me decide I didn't care to watch another Marvel Cinematic Universe flick, ever. But I went to this, partly because my parents went to it after taking me out to dinner and we were traveling in their car, so I could only have avoided going it at the expense of Making a Scene. Which, at the time, just didn't seem worth the effort.

I went and saw it, but was surprised by very little that I saw. I could have predicted – and in an internal way, I kind of did predict – pretty much exactly what happens in this movie. Like I said, "How could it not?" How could time travel not be involved? How could it not be fraught with unintended consequences? How could there not be a climactic battle, starring everybody in the Screen Actors Guild who isn't under contract to DC? How could the recovery of most (but not quite all) of the heroes lost in Infinity War take place without the sacrifice of a few of those who had survived? And how could the boss battle not be depicted on a scale rivaling the Battle of Five Armies in The Hobbit Part 3, with all the requisite artifact of too many too-tiny CGI animated figures duking it out across a too-large canvas? How, indeed?

Sigh. I'm going to skip now to the Three Scenes That Made It For Me: (1) Ant Man: "Somebody peed in my suit." Belly-laugh funny. (2) Capt. America, after knocking himself out in a time-travel assisted scene: "That *is* America's ass." (3) Tony Stark's moment (also via time travel) with the guy who was about to become his dad.

And now the Three Scenes That Un-Made It For Me, because I'm just too sick of this by-the-numbers crap to play nice right now: (1) The endless series of fake-out endings, stealing another unfortunate bit from the third number of a Peter Jackson/Tolkien trilogy. (2) Fat Thor. (3) Chris Pratt's character being treated as such a useless, like, prat. I haven't even seen any of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, and I felt vicariously slapped in the face. I could actually go on, because there are more, but I said there were going to be three, but actually, Thing 1 and the aforementioned predictability of it all pretty much reduced my entire evening's enjoyment to a couple of belly laughs and one moment of misty-eyed emotion. If this is the current state of myth making, I want to go back to the Greek.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Die Trying

Die Trying
by Lee Child
Recommended Ages: 15+

The security cam footage will show, in one-every-10-second stills, a tall, muscular guy grabbing FBI Agent Holly Johnson as she hobbles out of her dry cleaner's with a crutch supporting her bum knee and a week's worth of laundry slung over her shoulder.

The tall guy, identified later as a recently discharged major in the Military Police with a spotless 13-year record in the U.S. Army, is obviously the ringleader of the group of thugs that kidnaps Holly and whisks her out of Chicago, leaving only a burned-out car, stolen, with its owner burned along with it in the trunk, as a clue. That and, a few days later, a dead bad guy left in a ditch several states away.
No demands have been made. For the team of Feds desperately seeking clues to Holly's fate, the list of unanswered questions is blowing up. For example, what could this G.I. Joe type – Jack Reacher is his name – possibly want? Why would a guy whose longtime commanding officer swears he would not do such a thing, do such a thing?

It's all very mysterious. I mean, it's not like they're supposed to believe that Jack Reacher just randomly happened to cross paths with Holly Johnson at the very moment she was kidnapped – that he was brought along for the ride by a bunch of not-too-bright crooks out of sheer, spur-of-the-moment desperation – and that no one could have chosen a better good guy to have Holly's back when she's surrounded by bad guys. Right?

And then it turns out that Holly is very important to someone very important. And then it turns out that Holly is very, very important to someone very, very important. And then it turns out that someone on the off-the-books, multi-agency mission to save Holly is working on the other side. And then it turns out that ... just forget about it. The surprises keep coming, hard and fast. And Jack Reacher keeps coming at their captors, even harder and faster, with a lethal efficiency that would absolutely make you cringe if you didn't think they deserved it, and that will possibly make you cringe anyway.

As I continue to learn, Lee Child writes his Reacher novels with a brutal directness that has a certain appeal. It's wish-fulfillment fantasy that works, apparently, because it's the kind of writing that fulfills its author's wishes – and he's not all that different from many of us. It's fiction that tantalizes you with the danger threatening admirable people, then rewards you with the demise of despicable people. It's fiction revolving around a hero whose inner life is not particularly logjammed with emotional conflicts.

He's a man of simple needs, wandering his country (where he has spent little time until his discharge a few months ago) with little more than the clothing on his back, staying nowhere more than a few days, troubled by few pangs of conscience (even after ending a man with his bare hands), preoccupied by a few simple desires (like the touch of a beautiful woman), and willing to, as the title suggests, "die trying" to save her, even if he can't have her.

Also, he's a man who can look at a gun and tell you everything about it in a few crisp sentences. I'm not exactly a gun nut; I can just about tell the difference between a rifle and a shotgun, if the lighting is good. But I found the edifying currents in Reacher's stream of consciousness quite enjoyable, and the highlight of the book for me – a passage that I used, successfully, to secure my dad's interest in the series – is a shooting contest between Reacher and the boss bad guy, whose agenda is so over-the-top villainous that I'm too embarrassed to describe it. Let's just say that, predictably, he dies trying something, to the great enjoyment of many, including me.

For some reason, when I read Persuader, I was persuaded that it was the first novel in the Jack Reacher series. So, when I asked the person at the library circulation desk to put the second book on request for me, I got this – which is correct. I didn't know then, nor did I know while reading this book – in fact, I only found out just now, while doing my own little bit of online research for this review – that while this really is the second book, I haven't read the first book, which is Killing Floor, and that Persuader is all the way down the list at No. 7. But as the 24th book in the series is coming out later this year, I guess I have plenty of time to catch up.

Monday, April 22, 2019

How to Catch a Bogle

How to Catch a Bogle
by Catherine Jinks
Recommended Ages: 11+

Welcome to a Dickensian underbelly of London where missing children often turn out to have been eaten by monsters known as bogles, which haunt chimneys and sewers. Here young Birdie McAdam scratches out a living as an apprentice to a veteran bogler named Alfred Bunce. Combining Birdie's tireless, tuneful voice with a quick thrust from Alfred's demon-slaying spear, the pair makes short work of these nasties.

In another era (say, that of Jonathan Stroud's "Lockwood & Co." thrillers), it would be a prestigious line of work. In Birdie's time, it's regarded as the kind of pest-removal service whose purveyors are let in by the kitchen door, sometimes known only to the servants. They are the saviors of chimney sweeps, scullery maids, and the muckers who pick through whatever washes ashore along the Thames. Who is going to listen to them when they discover that behind the latest plague of ghouls stands a respectable doctor, bent on summoning evil spirits to do his bidding? Things that crawl out of uncovered wells and sooty flues are scarcely more chilling than a human monster who sacrifices children to his own desire for power. And now, Birdie stands in his way.

Besides being a thrilling, funny and mildly romantic story – with a pickpocket on one hand and a mudlark on the other vying for Birdie's affections – it's also a nifty primer on lower-class London slang (there's even a glossary at the back) and a vivid picture of 19th century English urban life, only with scaly critters added. It plumbs such dark spaces of the imagination as being locked up in a lunatic asylum, being dangled as bait in front of a child-eating horror, and being squeezed into a starchy dress by a prim lady who wants you to grow up nice and proper. Imagine being given the choice between them. Also, the lyrics of the songs that Birdie sings are hysterical.

This book, a.k.a. A Very Unusual Pursuit, is the first book of the City of Orphans series. It continues in A Plague of Bogles (a.k.a. A Very Peculiar Plague) and The Last Bogler (a.k.a A Very Singular Guild). Catherine Jinks is the Australian-Canadian author of the four-book Pagan Chronicles, the Allie's Ghost Hunters quartet, the Cadel Piggott/Evil Genius trilogy, The Reformed Vampire Support Group, The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group and loads of other titles for teens and younger.

Full Wolf Moon

Full Wolf Moon
by Lincoln Child
Recommended Ages: 14+

When Yale medieval history prof Jeremy Logan tries to take a break from his second career as an “enigmalogist” – explainer of the unexplained – he finds himself at an artists’ retreat in the Adirondacks, working on a scholarly monograph about heresy. Nevertheless, the pursuit of things that go bump in the night – or, in this case, things that howl at the full moon – comes to him, in the form of an old college chum who now works as a park ranger.

Randall Jessup suspects that the mauled victims found in the woods after the last couple of full moons are the doing of something with the intelligence of a man and the savagery of a wild animal. Logan isn’t quite so ready to sign onto the werewolf theory, but when his friend becomes the next victim, it gets harder to look away.

Risking getting kicked out of the quiet sanctuary of Cloudwater, Logan finds himself circling the edges of a police manhunt that may have something more than man out in front of it. Could the killer be a psychopathic killer who was recently discharged from a criminally insane ward into the very area of the murders? Could he have something to do with an inbred clan that lives behind a woven wall in the backwoods, and whom the locals suspect of having a hairy secret? Could it be related to a research station conducting secret animal experiments on the fringes of science? Or maybe all of the above?

Whatever the truth is, it will (naturally) put Logan and others in terrifying danger on a series of full-moon nights – because monographs aren’t written in a day, you know – amid the gorgeous scenery and, in the dark at least, unnerving quietness of upstate New York’s parkland. Secrets within secrets, moon sickness, paranoia, isolation and anger all do their part to make a stretch of forest road a deadly place to be while one guy, no stranger to being dismissed as a fringe maven, strives to reconcile the unbelievable with the undeniable, the fantastic with the real. It all cooks up into a rich stew of eeriness, weirdness, suspense, freakish terror, outlandish outlines and (more or less) believable details.

This is Book 5 of the Dr. Jeremy Logan series, coming after Deep Storm, Terminal Freeze, The Third Gate and The Forgotten Room. The author, not to be confused with Lee Child, is half of the "Preston & Child" writing duo, along with Douglas Preston. Together, they have written the 18-book Pendergast series and the five-book Gideon's Crew series, besides a handful of stand-alone books. By himself, Lincoln Child is also the author of Utopia (a.k.a. Lethal Velocity) and Death Match.

The Forgotten Room

The Forgotten Room
by Lincoln Child
Recommended Ages: 14+

Dr. Jeremy Logan is a professor of medieval history at Yale, but most people know him from his highly publicized sideline, in which he styles himself an “enigmalogist.” That’s where he travels the world, separating truth from superstition and getting to the truth behind legends and lore. The Loch Ness monster? Check. Bigfoot? Vampires? Werewolves? Abominable snowmen? If they’re really out there, he knows about it first-hand.

But now, he has been asked back to Lux, an elite policy institute tucked away on the Rhode Island seashore, where he was briefly a research fellow years ago, until another faculty member had him kicked out for lacking scientific rigor. In spite of their reservations about his field of interest, the fellows at Lux need Logan now. They need someone they can trust to be discreet, someone with an open mind, someone with the skills to explain the unexplainable.

Why? Because one of their most sensible, even-tempered fellows recently lost his mind, attacked another staff member, then committed suicide in a very gruesome way. Several other faculty members have experienced strange and ominous phenomena. It all seems to date back to the re-opening of the long closed west wing of the Lux building, originally the home of an eccentric millionaire whose family had a history of tragic happenings. Could the place be haunted? Could it have something to do with a room that Logan discovers on the second floor of the west wing, a room not on the official blueprints?

Logan digs deeper, because that’s what he does. Inside that room – which has no apparent way in or out – is a mysterious device built during a project that was abandoned decades ago. Files relating to the project are missing from Lux’s archives. Anyone who learns what it was about seems to fall victim to a tragic accident. The more Logan closes in on the secret, the more dark, diabolical and deadly things happen in and around Lux until a literal and figurative hurricane of violence comes ashore.

Paranormal or not, this book is unmistakably a thriller. Part of its edginess, though, comes from how long it takes to spot whether it's paranormal or not. The truth is so chilling that the initial hypothesis – killer ghosts – might actually be tame by comparison. And while Logan isn't exactly a take-no-prisoners action hero – he is, after all, a history prof who talks to his dead wife when no one else is around – his persistence in getting to the bottom of things is bound to get him into the kind of trouble that kept this reader, for one, hanging on with a white-knuckled grip, straight through the night.

This is Book 4 of the Dr. Jeremy Logan series, which also includes Deep Storm, Terminal Freeze, The Third Gate and Full Wolf Moon. The author, not to be confused with Lee Child, is half of the "Preston & Child" writing duo, along with Douglas Preston. Together, they have written the 18-book Pendergast series and the five-book Gideon's Crew series, besides a handful of stand-alone books. By himself, Lincoln Child is also the author of Utopia (a.k.a. Lethal Velocity) and Death Match.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Boy Who Knew Everything

The Boy Who Knew Everything
by Victoria Forester
Recommended Ages: 12+

In this sequel to The Girl Who Could Fly, buoyant Piper McCloud has led her little band of misfits back to the farm where she started life, after their escape from an awful institution devoted to squashing the super-powers out of very special kids. Serving as co-leader of the group is Conrad Harrington III, a super-brilliant boy who feels the life go out of him when he realizes that his father, who rejects his very existence, is about to become President of the U.S. But he doesn't have long to mope, with a series of disasters threatening thousands of lives and the government doing less than nothing about it.

Before they get to the bottom of what is happening, Piper and Conrad must escape from a military that blames them for everything that is going wrong. They must find their way into a hidden world full of people like them and then, in defiance of even greater odds, out again. They must make peace with terrifying enemies who have become allies; and more difficult still, they must survive the betrayal of a seeming friend who is really their ultimate enemy.

That synopsis comes dangerously close to revealing too much. But really, all I want to add to this review is that it's a pretty good book, with some emotionally powerful moments, amazing feats and high adventure; but it doesn't move me quite as much as the first book did. I suppose this could partly be put down to middle-book-of-a-trilogy-itis. Part of it, however, is directly related to the ending being (I feel) rushed, with the pace of the story surging ahead more than I thought was really good for it. Nevertheless, I am very interested in seeing the third installment, The Boy Who Lived Forever (scheduled for release in January 2020). I expect a great deal, even after a not-quite-as-good second book, of the conclusion of a trilogy that started as strongly as this one did.

Sunday, April 14, 2019


Shazam! – I'm told Captain Marvel, released around the same time as this movie, was pretty good. But between the two movies, both based on characters originally named Captain Marvel, this was the one I wanted to see, and I enjoyed it very much. It features teen newcomer Asher Angel as a frequent-runaway foster child named Billy Batson who has been looking for his mother since, when he was very small, they were separated in a crowd. A desperate wizard played by Djimon Hounsou lays the mantle of the powers of SHAZAM on him - wisdom of Solomon, strength of Hercules, stamina of Atlas, power of Zeus, courage of Achilles, speed of Mercury - and tells him that he must defend the world from the demons who embody the seven deadly sins.

Unfortunately, those demons have already been unleashed on the world, thanks to the revenge of the previous boy who didn't prove to be as pure of heart as the job description required. That failed candidate, now grown up and played by Mark Strong (remember the villain in 2009's Sherlock Holmes?) goes on an evil rampage, while Billy and his mildly disabled foster-brother mess around with his new superpowers, which (among other things) turn him into an adult, played by Zachary Levi. Other cast members include John Glover as the villain's father, Michelle Borth (of the current Hawaii Five-O), Adam Brody (of TV's The O.C.), and Cooper Andrews (of TV's The Walking Dead).

The upshot is an engaging blend of boyish goofiness and superhero-fantasy action, climaxing in a carnival battle between the demons and Billy's SHAZAM-ified family of foster siblings. Troubled kid learns lesson about loyalty to the found family he didn't actually set out to find. Unlikely candidate for being "pure of heart" enough to carry the mantle of SHAZAM, proves to have more going on under the cape than anyone would have guessed. Schoolyard bullies get the "suitcase wedgie" they've been dishing out, as a fringe benefit of having their lives saved from a freak carnival accident. With special effects that relied a little less on boring billows of smoke, it would be a just-about-perfect piece of family entertainment.

Three Scenes That Made It For Me: (1) The boys use Billy's adult-hero look to buy beer at a convenience store - then try it, spit it out in disgust and go back for snacks. (2) The kid finally finds his birth mother, only to realize she isn't his real family. (3) Forced to discover his powers one at a time, young Shazam figures out how to fly only inches from going splat on a freeway overpass... then discovers his invulnerability when a truck slams into him. Bonus: The little "ha!" Billy's best bud/foster brother gives in the very last scene when he's introduced to a very Special lunch room guest. That capital S is a hint.

Guardians of the West

Guardians of the West
by David Eddings
Recommended Ages: 13+

The first book of five in The Malloreon begins more or less where the five-book series The Belgariad left off. Belgarion, formerly just plain Garion, has grown from a farm boy tied to the apron strings of his Aunt Pol to a young man, powerful in sorcery, experienced in battle, wearing the crown of a kingdom and bearing a sword of destiny, with a powerful stone in its pommel. He knows a 7,000-year-old sorcerer as his Grandfather, has the voice of a prophecy living inside his head, and is married to a half-dryad imperial princess. And lest we forget, he has recently returned from a quest that culminated in his slaying of an evil god. So, a wee bit of happily ever after would seem to be in order. Naturally, it proves wee indeed.

Only a few years later, the courtiers of the kingdom of Riva are nervous about the fact that Garion and Ce’Nedra haven’t produced an heir yet. Their relationship is strained by the petty misunderstandings that can turn love from sweet to bitter. Their alliance with the neighboring Alorn kingdoms is strained by an assassination attempt against the queen. A cult is rising, devoted to an interpretation of ancient prophecy that emphasizes the racial purity of the Alorn royalty and their authority to crush and dominate all other kingdoms in the world. At least equally terrible is a leader of one of the Angarak nations, who is waging a war of extermination on one of his people’s historic allies, and who aims personally to fill the void left in his empire’s ancient religion by the slaying of their god. And then there’s the rumor of a prophecy opposing the one in Garion’s head – the prophecy that supports the ambitions of the Child of Darkness. Garion thought he had sent that one packing already, but it seems to come back with even nastier plans than before, and a new source of power equal to the stone in the pommel of Garion’s sword.

This book charts the beginning of Garion’s second major quest, in which he revisits the cultures, characters, battlefields and courts brimming with intrigue that he previously passed through in The Belgariad. This time, the stakes are somehow even higher than before, both on a cosmic level – I mean, we could be talking the end of all things, here – as well as personally. No longer a mere boy, Garion suffers the agony of returning from the battlefield too late to prevent his own child’s abduction. The search for that child, with many delays, becomes tied up in his quest to save the world. And in that quest, once again, he is accompanied by a diverse group of companions selected by destiny (or by whomever) for reasons beyond his knowing – including a spy, a mute, a sometime blacksmith who has stumbled upon sorcery, and a strange boy who seems just as likely as Garion to become the champion of the Light in adventures to come.

At the risk of some repetition, fantasy pioneer David Eddings takes opportunity in this series to re-explore the already richly developed world he created in The Belgariad, full of endearing characters, complex geopolitics, delicious dialogue and thrilling action. The magic, when it happens, wows. The emotions, when they stir, run warm. The adventure, in both its horizontal geography and its penetration into multiple vertical layers of reality, can be called epic without fear of challenge. The opportunity to enjoy another quest with the same world at stake provides a rare opportunity to experience a sense of comfortable familiarity at the same time as gripping tension and excitement. Seeing the same old characters and places again, but in a different light, provides an intriguing blend of old and new. And remembering what Garion was, when we first met him – a child bursting with raw promise – makes us care all the more about what he has become, is still becoming, and will go through in this new series.

The books following this are King of the Murgos, Demon Lord of Karanda, Sorceress of Darshiva and The Seeress of Kell. Eddings is also the author or co-author of the Elenium and Tamuli trilogies, several other companion books and stand-alone novels.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

The Glass Magician

The Glass Magician
by Charlie N. Holmberg
Recommended Ages: 13+

Ceony Twill, an apprentice to the paper magician (commonly known as a Folder) Emery Thane, has fallen in love with her master. She can hardly help it, after actually traveling through his heart in an adventure to save him from a blood magician who used to be his wife. But in a magical U.K. on a similar technological level to our world’s early 20th century, an intimate relationship between a master and apprentice would be highly scandalous. And anyway, he doesn’t act like he reciprocates her feelings.

And anyway anyway, they may not live to exchange passionate endearments, because evil magicians are after them again. Rather, they’re after Ceony, because they think she might be able to reverse what she did to freeze the female bad guy in the previous book. One of the new bad guys is another blood magician (Excisioner), who only needs to touch you once to gain the power to kill you with a flick of his wrist. About as bad is the other bad guy, a glass magician (Gaffer) like Ceony’s best friend Delilah, who can do amazing things (for example) with mirrors.

But don’t count a mere Folder out of the fight. Ceony manages to use folding paper to fly, build a bomb, shield objects from magical detection, and even create a moving, two-dimensional copy of herself. All these skills may not be enough, however, against fiends who are willing to blow up a factory, murder people indiscriminately, and do things that would make most people shudder. Worse still, one of them has discovered a secret that could alter the relationship between magicians and the materials they are bound to.

This novel has a powerful charge of danger, action, horror and magic in it, and romance is never far behind. Ceony sends many other emotions across just as powerfully – including, I’m afraid, guilt and grief. I find the combination irresistible, and the shape of magic in Ceony's world is fascinating and unique. This series, which started with The Paper Magician, continues after this book with two more, so far – The Master Magician and The Plastic Magician. I look forward to reading them both.


by Lee Child
Recommended Ages: 15+

Some book reviews should come with a Spoiler Warning. For this review, I feel like issuing a Non-Spoiler Warning. I mean, I’m actually going to tell you less about what happens in this book than the back-cover blurb does. I’m also going to advise you not to read the back-cover or book-jacket blurb before you’ve made it a significant way through the book. I made the mistake of sneaking a peak at the back-cover blurb, and I found that it destroyed a surprise and discharged an electrical potential of tension that accumulated during the first chapter.

So, first chapter synopsis only: Jack Reacher is this guy who was in the military for a long time, and has been out of the military for a short time. He was much better at being in the military than he is at being out. But the skills he picked up during that earlier time prove really handy now, when – apparently by sheer chance – a rich college boy is snatched off a Boston street right in front of him in a barrage of weapons fire that puts said college boy’s body guards out of commission. Jack checks his “are you sure you want to do this” meter, then interferes with the kidnap with brutal efficiency. Unfortunately, one of the bodies that goes down belongs to a cop who just happened to be there.

Jack and college boy hit the road. Jack tells the boy he’ll take him anywhere he likes, as long as it’s out of town and doesn’t involve the police. Cop killers don’t get a warm welcome with the police, he reasons. College boy is all right with that; he’s so freaked out, having been kidnapped once before and having a mutilated ear to show for it. He begs and pleads and finally convinces Jack to drive him all the way to Maine, to the suspiciously well-armed oceanside fortress where his family lives. The kid's father is supposedly a rug importer, but there is clearly something else going on. More ominous still are the signs that someone else, someone unseen, is really in charge and that the kid’s parents, crooked dad and all, are just as trapped there as Jack soon will be. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Let’s not, for example, mention that there is more to why Jack is there than mere chance. Pay no attention to the insinuation that either a rescue mission or a piece of stone-cold revenge is in play, let alone both. Cover the next couple of sentences so you don’t find out, sooner than you should, that the book is a slow-burning fuse branching off to an exquisitely timed series of explosions. Jack Reacher frequently risks, and just as frequently inflicts, coldblooded death. He proves relentless, resourceful and ridiculously competent – and boy, does he know his way around a gun.

I am not a Tom Cruise fan, and I have not seen the film or films (I don’t even know whether there are more than one) featuring him as Jack Reacher. Basing my mental image of Jack Reacher on this book, I can’t begin to conceive of how Tom Cruise could play him. Please, don’t tell me. I would rather not know. Just as you would rather not know more than you strictly must to get hooked on this savagely violent, torturously suspenseful, unputdownable book.

Though this is the first book by Lee Child that I have read, it turns out to be the seventh in soon-to-be 24 novels in his Jack Reacher series, starting all the way back in 1997 with Killing Floor and due to continue in October 2019 with Blue Moon. In between, their titles include Die Trying, Tripwire, The Visitor, Echo Burning, Without Fail, The Enemy, One Shot, The Hard Way, Bad Luck and Trouble, Nothing to Lose, Gone Tomorrow, 61 Hours, Worth Dying For, The Affair, A Wanted Man, Never Go Back, Personal, Make Me, Night School, The Midnight Line and Past Tense, plus several novellas. Lee Child is a British transplant to New York, USA.