Thursday, 3 March 2016

Lee Child - Killing Floor

This book was recommended to me by a friend who doesn’t read very much so I thought I would pick it up and give it a go. What I’m about to say may seem extremely negative and for the most part it is because there were a lot of things about the book I didn’t like. That said, once I got used to the writing style, it became a fast paced, accessible action-adventure which was difficult to put down. That’s the praise out of the way, let’s talk shittiness.

Now I’ve always been taught that the first page of anything you write is the most important, especially when it comes to novels. Selling yourself to publishers happens in about sixty seconds, maybe less depending on how many manuscripts they have to read. The first page here made me take a second check of what was going on because the last paragraph, which crosses over to the second page, starts with some newspaper bullshit of no relevance to the scene and moves immediately to the action of our main protagonist being arrested. I understand the reasons for this but it made me stop, think and need to re-read and that’s not something I should be doing on the first page of a novel.

As I’ve said above, it took me a while to get used to the writing style, however once I did it reads quite well. The main issues I had were with some of the character decisions made throughout the book and they link back to the writing. I will warn you now that some of things I’m about to say may be considered spoilers but I will try to be as vague as possible.

As early as page 39, I started to raise my eyebrows at some of the stuff that was going on. Apparently the Chief of Police sees Reacher at the crime scene at midnight. Not one person turns around and asks what the Chief of Police was doing there. Just a routine stroll around the out-of-town warehouse where someone was murdered as the exact same time?? This is explained later on as to why he thinks to saw Reacher there but that just poses more questions than answers. This carries on for the next twenty pages and not even the first-person narrator questions why the police chief is there. Maybe I’ve read/watched too many deductive programs but it would have been the first question on my list.

On page 80 when Reacher and Hubble turn up at the prison, the warden asks which one of the two of them is Hubble... but doesn’t address Reacher at all. This doesn’t make any sense. Either you are checking you have both of the right people or you know both of them. Why only ask one of them? Again, there is a clear reason for this but it doesn’t make sense to do it in the context it is done unless the Warden’s character is really stupid but if that’s the case, Reacher isn’t he so should have sensed something was up. The intelligence of Reacher is established early on when he works out that Finley is an ex-smoking divorcee just by looking at him.

In fact, a lot of the other points I’ve made about the narrative decisions relate to Reacher’s early show of observation and deduction. Apparently, it’s a super power that needs to re-charge because he didn’t work out that someone at the police station didn’t run the victim’s prints and was therefore in on the murder; he didn’t question the suspicious death of the previous investigator even though the evidence made me think it was murder (and I was right); he didn’t work out until a few days after the event, that the white supremacists who tried to kill him should have been trying to kill Hubble; he doesn’t think that taking a car from a house would alert anyone watching the house that he had been back there; he drives for 50 miles further than his petrol tank will allow him to go but after pointing this out, he isn’t surprised by this and doesn’t even do a fuel check after stopping.
It’s lucky though because his super powers come back in to play at the end as he manages to track down Hubble by making a fuck load of ridiculous assumptions about his fake name and location that, of course, are right on the money. Looking at this, it actually seems like his deductive brilliance is actually out of character.

On the subject of Reacher, he is the a-typical male character. He objectifies the one woman in the town who is actually attractive (according to the narrative anyway) and of course, she ends up fancying him too. It’s all very stereotypical.

So there you go, Killer Floor is a novel with some narrative decisions that are more puzzling that the decision to cast Tom Cruise as the 6-foot tall blonde guy. As I said though, none of that takes away from the fact that it’s a very readable book and there are some clever bits in there that make it worth reading.

Killing Floor by Lee Child was published by Bantam Press in 1998. RRP £7.99 (Paperback)

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