Top critical review
Steady pace but story flaws wear on you
May 19, 2017
Lee Child has had a successful run with the Jack Reacher series and having just seen the couple movies, I wanted to see where it all started. I started with the first book and while there were some glimmers I was overall pretty disappointed. So many predictable plot turns that I wanted to scream. Unlikely plot and sub-plots with one dimensional characters. It had to get better, right?
Die Trying is proof that the series does get better. At least I hope it gets better after this. While this book advances the Jack Reacher character and Lee Child demonstrates a lot more depth as an author, ultimately I just gave up 3/4 of the way through the book as the implausible just became laughable. The villains are treated as masterminds, outwitting authorities and Reacher at every turn and while each new twist and turn is supposed to keep you guessing and on edge, it feels like it's more an attempt to fill pages.
There are some moments when this book shines. Jack Reacher battling claustrophobia was written so well that I even found my own heart beating rapidly imagining the moment myself. The rest was mostly engaging until the absurdity became too much.
I don't want to give away too much. If you still want to read the book, stop here. If you want to save a few bucks and start later in the series, I will let you know what you missed with the following:
WARNING: SPOILER ALERTS
So, our two protagonists have just buried a body and are tired, desperate, seemingly without hope, and...horny? Yes, apparently in some "how to be an author" handbook on Lee Child's shelf, you try to work in at least one sexual encounter no matter the situation. It comes up at such a bizarre time and without any precursor that I was wondering if Mr. Child's adolescent son snuck in to write this page and neither the author nor the editor caught the passage.
The militant group seeking to break off and declare independence from the United States has stolen four truckloads of stinger missiles, killing the 20 National Guardsman transporting them and the response (military, federal, or local law enforcement) is....nothing. A small group within the military and FBI is defying presidential orders by ordering its own half-baked rescue/assault effort, which is out-maneuvered at every turn by the crafty separatists.
It's pretty common to make the conventional heroes (military, police, etc.) ineffective in one way or another so the novel's hero rise is even more substantial. In this story, the military and FBI do nothing because, well, just because. The already weak story line that the separatists represent a large enough percentage of the population that a military response would unite that segment is coupled with a "what's the worse that could happen" mentality. Okay. I kind of bought into that until they stole stinger missiles and held a small group of marines hostage...and a General and FBI guy...and everybody just sort of acquiesced like, "what else can we do?"
Reacher is caught and re-caught in so many instances, I was almost thinking this might be some obscure Army training that dictates when you're not sure what to do, surrender so you have some time to think. Fortunately, there are enough characters with limited intelligence that he will easily be able to escape once again.