A word of caution – if I may before I begin with this post – spoilers, some that might be deemed quite major, are unavoidable.
The Killing Floor by Lee Child was his first book featuring Jack Reacher and had more of an impact on me by virtue of having read the two prequels The Enemy and The Affair. The reason I say this is that when Reacher finds out that his brother has been killed it was a big shock. See I warned you about spoilers!
If I hadn’t have read about Reacher’s brother, and learned about his mostly distant relationship with him, in the two prequels I don’t think the emotional impact would have been that big. As a result I might not have been rooting as strongly for Reacher to get some revenge and crack the seedy business going on in the small, seemingly idyllic, US town of Margrave that he wanders into.
In fact Reacher seems to display some rather psychopathic tendencies towards the villains and assorted henchman arrayed before him. The mystery around the ‘many out of one’ reversed motto took me about twenty seconds to suss out. I was smugly pleased with myself, until I figured that I must have read about this or been told about this plot point prior to reading the book. Anyway the book was a good read and I like Child’s punchy and dare I say pulpy style a great deal.
Ghostwritten by not-the-comedian David Mitchell is a complicated beast containing as it does several location-based short stories that all have a connection and for me provided different levels of engagement. The book as a whole is more linear than his later and perhaps more famous book The Cloud Atlas and perhaps because of this it seems less complex and more entertaining.
I haven’t got the time or inclination to go through all the interconnectedness of Ghostwritten, but suffice to say that Mitchell is very adept at interweaving narratives and covering a number of genres and styles of writing in one book. One thing I will point out is the similarity to one of the stories to the very good and creepy Denzel Washington film Fallen and an overall Haruki Murakami vibe with hints of Arthur C. Clarke, Asimov and William Gibson along the way. No offence to Lee Child but Mitchell is on a higher plain of existence when it comes to writing and it’s no wonder that he has written so few novels (7)in comparison to Child (20+).
Sharpe’s Eagle by Bernard Cornwell finds our plucky hero still with his battalion of riflemen in Spain serving in Wellesley’s army. Like Killing Floor this is the first book the author wrote about his most famous character, but it is preceded in this case by seven prequels. It is not at all obvious to the reader that this is the case – Cornwell has done a grand job in making sure the later written prequels fitted in – far more so than for instance George Lucas did with the Star Wars prequels!
The Eagle in the title is one of the French Imperial Eagles which were used as battle standards in those days – Sharpe, surrounded by ineffectual commanders above his station – typically leads a brave sortie into the enemy ranks to capture the trophy, save the English army’s reputation and his own in the process. To my mind this is as much a commentary on the working man’s struggle against bureaucracy and middle management as it is a rambunctious tale of daring do. Rousing stuff!