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Book Nook - 10-12-2018

Monday, December 10, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

There are Lit Fests taking place all over the country, but the community of readers is dwindling. Still, passionate book lovers would like to know what others like themselves are reading. This Book Nook suggests some books, but would also like to connect with serious readers, or even casual airport book browsers. Do write in about books you have loved or hated and why. The best entries will be shared on this page. Please send your recommendations to adc.booknook@gmail.com

Follow The Father
Jack Reacher, is a remarkable character created by Lee Child, a former army man who decided, on leaving his job, that he would never settle down. So he keeps on the move, with just the clothes on his back, some money and his toothbrush in his pocket. He has no destination in mind, and goes wherever a bus, or a car giving him a lift takes him. He stays in any motel on the way, and eats wherever he can—the life of a modern-day gypsy. The very tall, well-built Reacher never looks for trouble, and if at all he gets into a fight, it is to protect someone who needs help. He can beat up the best of them, with his honed instincts, impeccable technique, and hands
that are described as “big as dinner plates.”

In Past Tense, the 23rd book of the bestselling series, Jack Reacher finds himself near Laconia, a small town in New Hampshire, and recalls that his father, Stan Reacher, was born there. He decides to go to Laconia and look for the family home.

Meanwhile, in another track, a young Canadian couple, Shorty Fleck and Patty Sundstrom, drive over in a battered car, hoping to start a new life in the US. Their car breaks down, the place where they find themselves stranded has no cell network and no cars driving by. They find a motel deep in the forest, and get a room there, with the cheerful owner promising to get their car fixed the next day. Between one thing and another, they find themselves unable to leave. Mark and his three cohorts, all smiling and helpful, imprison them for a purpose so sinister, that it would be tough for the reader to guess.

The two tracks do not actually converge till much later in the book, but Reacher and Patty have a strange spiritual connection; several times in the book, they wake up at one minute past three, with some kind of primeval warning bell ringing in their brains.

Reacher believes his self-assigned errand is simple—go to the country office, find the record for his family,  take a look at the house and leave. But, to his surprise, no Reacher shows up in the search, which just makes him determined to try harder.

He cannot stay out of trouble, however, and fells with one flying fist, in two separate instances, a man harassing a woman, and another beating up an old man.  The families of the wounded men have the kind of connections that would have a mob coming after him. Reacher finds a helper in the old man called Burke, who drives him around, when Laconia’s top cop, Brenda Amos wants him out of town to prevent gang shootouts in her peaceful jurisdiction. But, the way things happen, every time she looks up, there’s Reacher breaking her rule, when all he is trying to do is solve the puzzle of the Reacher clan missing from official records.

It’s a surprisingly humorous and fast-paced book, and when Reacher’s laconic character, who leaves a trail of broken bones wherever he goes, encounters the very smart and spunky Patty, there is a savage, fight-to-the-finish climax. For Lee Child fans, a very satisfying read; those who discover Reacher so late in the day, there are twenty-two books to go, and you can’t stop at one.

Past Tense
By Lee Child
Publisher: Delacorte
Pages: 400


Excerpt of Past Tense
Jack Reacher caught the last of the summer sun in a small town on the coast of Maine, and then, like the birds in the sky above him, he began his long migration south. But not, he thought, straight down the coast. Not like the orioles and the buntings and the phoebes and the warblers and the ruby-throated hummingbirds. Instead he decided on a diagonal route, south and west, from the top right-hand corner of the country to the bottom left, maybe through Syracuse, and Cincinnati, and St. Louis, and Oklahoma City, and Albuquerque, and onward all the way to San Diego. Which for an army guy like Reacher was a little too full of Navy people, but which was otherwise a fine spot to start the winter.

It would be an epic road trip, and one he hadn’t made in years.

He was looking forward to it.

He didn’t get far.

He walked inland a mile or so and came to a county road and stuck out his thumb. He was a tall man, more than six feet five in his shoes, heavily built, all bone and muscle, not particularly good looking, never very well dressed, usually a little unkempt. Not an overwhelmingly appealing proposition. As always most drivers slowed and took a look and then kept on going. The first car prepared to take a chance on him came along after forty minutes. It was a year-old Subaru wagon, driven by a lean middle-aged guy in pleated chino pants and a crisp khaki shirt. Dressed by his wife, Reacher thought. The guy had a wedding ring. But under the fine fabrics was a workingman’s body. A thick neck and large red knuckles. The slightly surprised and somewhat reluctant boss of something, Reacher thought. The kind of guy who starts out digging post holes and ends up owning a fencing company.

Which turned out to be a good guess. Initial conversation established the guy had started out with nothing to his name but his daddy’s old framing hammer, and had ended up owning a construction company, responsible for forty working people, and the hopes and dreams of a whole bunch of clients. He finished his story with a little facial shrug, part Yankee modesty, part genuine perplexity. As in, how did that happen? Attention to detail, Reacher thought. This was a very organized guy, full of notions and nostrums and maxims and cast-iron beliefs, one of which was at the end of summer it was better to stay away from both Route One and I-95, and in fact to get out of Maine altogether as fast as possible, which meant soon and sideways, on Route Two straight west into New Hampshire. To a place just south of Berlin, where the guy knew a bunch of back roads that would get them down to Boston faster than any other way. Which was where the guy was going, for a meeting about marble countertops. Reacher was happy. Nothing wrong with Boston as a starting point. Nothing at all. From there it was a straight shot to Syracuse. After which Cincinnati was easy, via Rochester and Buffalo and Cleveland. Maybe even via Akron, Ohio. Reacher had been in worse places. Mostly in the service.
They didn’t get to Boston.
 

Core Of Steel
After the inimitable character of Amos Decker (not to mention Will Robie and John Puller), bestselling author David Baldacci launches a new series with a remarkable female character, Atlee Pine, a fighting-fit FBI special agent with a “core of steel”, who, by choice, lives and works in a remote area near the Grand Canyon, called Shattered Rock. She has a backstory— when she was six years old,  her twin sister, Mercy, was abducted and murdered by a ruthless serial killer. Her parents broke up after that and her father committed suicide. For years, Atlee’s survival instincts wiped out traces of the trauma, but when she reconstructs it with the help of therapy, she becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to her sister.

However, this track is introduced and put aside, for the next book perhaps, as she is called upon to investigate the killing of a mule in the Canyon, and the disappearance of the rider, Benjamin Priest. It seems like an open-and-shut case—how far could man go in that wilderness?-- but Atlee soon has the load of officialdom landing on her head. She cannot understand why powerful people in her own bureau, the army and higher-ups in the government are so concerned about a dead mule.

She is warned off pursing the case, but she and her spirited secretary, Carol Blum, a sixty-year-old mother of six, go rogue (“like Thelma and Louise”) in a vintage Mustang, to investigate on their own, and run smack into a global conspiracy, involving the Russians and North Koreans.

The reason for the murderous mayhem unleashed on Pine and anyone else who gets wind of the big secret is absurd enough to be plausible in today’s crazy world, run by deranged leaders.

Long Road To Mercy is not one of Baldacci’s best, it tends to go all over the place, and then spend too much time with Atlee hiking in the Canyon. But still, he is a master of the thriller, and offers the reader a loud enough bang for the buck in the winning climax. The further adventures of Atlee Pine will be keenly awaited.
Long Road To Mercy
By David Baldacci
Publisher: Grand Central
Pages: 404

 

Excerpt of Long Road To Mercy
Having grown up in the East, she’d spent the majority of her professional life in the open plains of the American Southwest. She hoped to spend the rest of it there because she loved the outdoor lifestyle and the wide-open spaces.

After a few years at the Bureau, Pine had had her pick of assignments. This had been the case for only one reason: She was willing to go where no other agent wanted to. Most agents were desperate to be assigned to one of the FBI’s fifty-six field offices. Some liked it hot, so they aimed for Miami, Houston, or Phoenix. Some aimed for higher office in the FBI bureaucracy, so they fought to get to New York or DC. Los Angeles was popular for myriad reasons, Boston the same. Yet Pine had no interest in any of those places. She liked the relative isolation of the RA, or resident agency, in the middle of nothing. And so long as she got results and was willing to pull the duty, people left her alone.

And in the wide-open spaces, she was often the only federal law enforcement for hundreds of miles. She liked that, too. Some would call her aloof, a control freak, or antisocial, but she wasn’t. She actually got along well with people. Indeed, you couldn’t be an effective FBI agent without having strong people skills. But she did like her privacy.

Pine had taken a position at the RA in St. George, Utah. It was a two-person outfit and Pine had been there for two years. When the opportunity arose, she had transferred to a one-agent office in a tiny town called Shattered Rock. It was a recently established RA due west of Tuba City, and about as close to Grand Canyon National Park as it was possible to be without actually being in the park. There, she enjoyed the support of one secretary, Carol Blum. She was around sixty and had been at the Bureau for decades. Blum claimed former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover as her hero, though he’d died long before she joined up.

Pine didn’t know whether to believe the woman or not.

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