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Home » Books & writing

Book Review: Lee Child’s 61 HOURS

Submitted by on May 6, 2010 – 12:22 am 24 Comments

After 13 books, you may think you know Jack Reacher pretty well but in 61 Hours (Delacorte, May 18), Lee Child allows small, revealing glimpses into Reacher’s psyche that might surprise you. This 14th novel is different from the rest in quite a few ways, hinting at more revelations in future installments, starting with the one coming out October 19 (two books in one year is also a change for Child).

Reacher is on a bus doing his nomad thing when it skids on ice and crashes in Bolton, South Dakota in the middle of a blizzard. The cops can’t come to the passengers’ aid right away because they have another situation on their hands—providing 24/7 protection to an important witness in an upcoming drug trial. Knowing a useful ally when they see one, the police recruit Reacher to become part of the witness’s protective detail against an unknown assassin. The case is complicated by riots at the newly installed prison and mysterious dealings in an abandoned military building just outside of town. During all this, a clock is ticking down from 61 hours to an explosive, cliff-hanging ending.

One of the reasons I love Child’s books is the rocket-speed action. Here, it slows down as Reacher spends most of the 61 hours waiting in the witness’s home for a showdown with the hitman. At first, I thought, “Come on! Knock some heads!” But as the book moves along, I realized the tradeoff is the lovely bond Reacher forms with the witness, a wise old woman who sees through his tough-guy exterior and asks him hard questions about the real reasons why he chooses a rootless life.

His relationship with the requisite Reacher babe, a woman who has his old army job as CO of the 110th Special Unit, takes on an entirely different nature than what we normally see him engage in. The CO eventually uncovers information about Reacher dating back to childhood. As she wonders, “Why was the army holding paper on a six-year-old kid?”

In the end, Reacher does kick a little ass (literally—you’ll see when you read it) after experiencing a moment of vulnerability that scared me a little (Reacher can NOT doubt himself!). This just means, though, there’s still a lot left to learn about him, a good thing in a long-running series.

Nerd verdict: Reacher is changed in Hours

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  • le0pard13 says:

    So tell me PCN, given how much you enjoyed this and the previous Reacher novel (Gone Tomorrow), should I jump ahead (out of order) for these? The last book for me was #3 (Tripwire). Thanks for the great book review.

    • Christine says:

      I’m a reader like LL, but I agree with she and Brett about jumping ahead to GONE TOMORROW if you wish.

      Another favorite of mine is THE ENEMY. It’s a prequel. Reacher is still active military plus there’s a story line involving his mother and brother, Joe.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      As others have said, you can jump around, lp13; the novels are self-contained. Reacher isn’t the introspective type so there aren’t many references to characters or incidents from previous books.

      My favorites are THE PERSUADER (I might be wrong but think it’s the only time he went undercover), WITHOUT FAIL (takes place in D.C. so I’m familiar with all the locations), ONE SHOT (crazy-ass conspiracy) & GONE TOMORROW (the villains are unique).

  • I loved 61 HOURS, too! It really surprised me…especially the ending. October can’t come soon enough!

    And le0pard13…I think you can read any of the Reacher books out of order without a problem. Skip to GONE TOMORROW, if you’d like. It’s a good one. But definitely don’t miss 61 HOURS.

    Gawd, you’d think I was getting paid for this plug.

  • Christine says:

    Thanks for this review, PCN! Two Reacher novels in a year? Most excellent!

  • LolosLetters says:

    le0, I’m a total “read in order” gal, but you can certainly read the Reacher series out of order. Not that I would endorse that path. 🙂

    Lee Child amazes me as a writer. There have been Reacher books where Reacher does nothing, literally nothing, but crawl through a desert on his belly for what seems like a thousand pages. And yet it’s still amazingly scintillating reading that has me on the edge of my mental seat. THAT is an art, making great reading out of nothing happening.

    It is a rare author as well who can write a whole book and fail to resolve the mystery and yet still satisfy me (indeed, not enrage me), but Lee Child has done it.

    Great stuff, can’t wait for 61 Hours.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      This is a perfect description (wish I’d written it) of what happens in 61 HOURS. Even when he’s waiting, Reacher is alert and running through scenarios in his head, keeping me right there with him. A skilled writer can make inner life engaging instead of dull.

      • LolosLetters says:


        My lone wish of Mr. Child – That we can have one, just ONE, installment where Reacher doesn’t bed the chick. I mean, I have nothing against Reacher gettin’ his game on, and Lord knows he’s irresistable (and not just to Naomi), but really? Every damn time? I thought Gone Tomorrow was going to be the winner, but nope, in the last, what, five seconds of the book it happens? I’m hoping that 61 Hours, with an elderly co-star, might be the one. Not that there’s anything wrong with bedding an elderly person. I’m just about one my own self. 🙂

  • Reader#9 says:

    I’ve been waiting for the new Reacher novel. Thanks for letting me know Child is doing two this year. It really makes my day.

    I started with The Killing Floor and read most of them in order, but I would tell anyone just getting started with Reacher to be adventurous and jump around in the series.

    Looking forward to the double shot of Reacher.

  • EIREGO says:

    TWO REACHERS IN ONE YEAR?!???!? WOOOOO-HOOO!! I’m one of those readers who just tear through a book as soon as it comes out and I go crazy when I have to wait for the next in a series. I chewed my nails off during the Harry Potter series waiting for each of the books. LOL!

    For me, you can start anywhere in the series, but I would strongly insist you start with the first one, THE KILLING FLOOR.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      I started with KILLING FLOOR and it remains one of my favorites because the story was so personal to Reacher.

      Don’t get me started on the wait for HP books. I was one of those people who got wristbands to stand in line at midnight to get the books THE SECOND they dropped. I might’ve even pushed little children out of my way. And one time, I went straight to the bookstore to make it there before midnight after getting off a 14-hour flight from Europe!

  • ONE SHOT is my favorite Reacher tale, don’t ask me why, haven’t a clue. I was a bit disappointed in the last one so I’m looking forward to renewing my love affair with the sometimes un-hygienic Reacher.

  • Here’s where I admit I haven’t read any of them. “…sometimes unhygienic…”??? Ok, I’ll put my Monk tendencies aside when I delve into my first Reacher.

  • Jen Forbus says:

    Well if the book holds me as captive as your review, I think I’m going to like this one!

  • Derek says:

    Just finished 61 Hours, and WOW, another great story, expertly told!! The ending has me pitching a fit, glad to hear another is on the way!!

  • William says:

    As with some of the readers above, I happened to first read Killing Floor and agree that it’s a good one to start with. I enjoyed The Enemy too, a sort of prequel, and written in the first person instead of Child’s usual third. One Shot I actually listened to as an audio book, which was fun, but it took me a while to hear Reacher in his/my own inner voice again. Today I’ve booked the follow up to 61 Hours, Something to Die For at the local library. Yes, it is out! NZ, Australia and the UK see it three weeks before it goes on sale in Canada and the USA! WooHoo!!! You people just be patient . . .

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      Hi William,

      I was lucky to get an early copy of WORTH DYING FOR and finished it in a couple days. You’re in for a treat because it’s spectacular. I’ll post a full review soon. Thanks for stopping by!

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