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Killing Floor by Lee Child

“I was arrested” were the three words that introduced Jack Reacher to the world. Killing Floor is an outstanding debut novel. It is full of action, excitement, mystery and complexity. Lee Child does not cut corners in producing a smooth, easy to read novel.


Former military policeman Jack Reacher gets off the bus in Margrave, California. His brother, whom he has not spoken to in years, mentioned that he will be able to find the tombstone of the musician Blind Blake. When he is arrested on suspicion of murder, Reacher discovers that the quaint town of Margrave is too good to be true. Detective Finlay from the Margrave police soon learns that the 6’5, 250 pound man facing him could not possibly be the murderer. Inside the shoe of the murdered man is a phone number for Mr. Hubble.


At the very heart of this fine novel is a mystery. Child uses first person narration, and being inside the mind of Reacher feels like a privilege. The very way in which he is able to process very complex situations, and simplify them one step at a time, is amazing. An example: Reacher is inside prison and on the verge of a scrap with another inmate. Instead of plastering the page with mindless drivel and pointless detail, Child uses his main man to explain what normally transpires in encounters like this, and then allows Reacher to use this foreknowledge to his advantage.

Character development comes naturally without being forced. Readers are unlikely to say “boring” or ask “why do I need to know this?” All the information given is only what readers need to know to progress through the passage of events. Joe Roscoe – Reacher’s lover – transforms into someone brave and determined. Finlay moves in and out of the story but still manages to build a presence. And Reacher? Well you learn about his character and nature, but he doesn’t really change. Why would he want to, or need to? He’s already five steps ahead of the game.


Integrated into the story is the theme of a crime funded utopia, something which real life organised crime syndicates often point to when their key members are arrested. There’s a sombre mood of contentment and a display of how (supposedly) good people find themselves in bad situations.


Lee Child debuts with a solid novel worth reading. When the Jack Reacher series eventually ends, hopefully fans of the book can return to where it all began.


REVIEWER: Tanya Allport

Killing Floor is the first novel in the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child, and was first published in 1997 by Putnam.

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