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Saturday, July 17, 2004

The Killing Floor and The Visitor by Lee Child

Of these two books, I preferred The Visitor, (also available as Running Blind). In The Killing Floor, Jack Reacher, the itinerant ex-homicide investigator for the military becomes too much of a vigilante for my taste. There is also a series a coincidences that stretch credulity. The beginning will definitely hold your interest, however.

Minding his own business while having breakfast, Reacher is arretsed in a small town in Georgia and accused of a particularly vicious murder. After establishing his alibi, he learns that the dead man is his brother. (Jack was arrested because he was seen walking down the road near the industrial site where the body had been discovered. Jack had been on a cross-country bus and had just arbitrarily asked the driver to let him off at a random intersection so he could walk fouteen miles to some town to learn more about Blind Blake, a black jazz singer.) Jack had not seen his brother, a treasury agent who had single-handedly eliminated counterfeiting from the United States, for many years. Anyway, turns out the town is being run by the Kleiner family. They have figured out a way to manufacture almost perfect $100 bills.

Reacher is a good character, but his sudden brilliant insights and instant appeal to women, make this title just too unreal. Good fast airplane read.

Much better is The Visitor. Why this was also published as Running Blind is beyond me. Jack has been targeted by the FBI's behavioral science unit – I love several of Jack's comments regarding this speculative agency and its worth, its best profiler has a degree in andscape gardening -- as being a likely serial killer. It seems severeal women from his past have been murdered. All of them had filed sexual harassment charges against a superior and Jack had been an investigating office while in the army. Using his investigative skills and knowledge of the army, Jack establishes his alibi, and then reluctantly agrees to help investigate the murders.

The killer is supremely clever. All the victims are found in their bathtubs, naked, and completely submerged in army camouflage paint. They didn't drown, weren't stabbed or shot, and bore no marks or bruises There is no forensic evidence to determine how the women were killed and the only link seems to be that they are ex-army and had filed sexual harassment charges against a superior officer. This is a very good who-done-it that focuses on physical evidence and hard investigative work to determine the identity of the killer.

The ex-9/11 FBI of this book is not that of Efram Zimbalist, Jr. They will stop at nothing, blackmail, threats of torture, illegal activities, and just plain stupid stuff to get their way. I hope the author doesn't know something we don't know, although clearly Ashcroft would love this amoral, the-ends-justfies-the-means agency. Reacher is fleshed out much more as a viable character, a good investigator who has no time for silly psychological profiling (remember how wrong the FBI profiles were of the sniper in Maryland.)
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