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61 Hours (Jack Reacher Series #14)

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Overview

Jack Reacher is back.
 
The countdown has begun. Get ready for the most exciting 61 hours of your life. #1 New York Times bestselling author Lee Child?s latest thriller is a ticking time bomb of suspense that builds electric tension on every page.
 
Sixty-one hours. Not a minute to spare.

A tour bus crashes in a savage ...

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61 Hours (Jack Reacher Series #14)

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Overview

Jack Reacher is back.
 
The countdown has begun. Get ready for the most exciting 61 hours of your life. #1 New York Times bestselling author Lee Child’s latest thriller is a ticking time bomb of suspense that builds electric tension on every page.
 
Sixty-one hours. Not a minute to spare.

A tour bus crashes in a savage snowstorm and lands Jack Reacher in the middle of a deadly confrontation. In nearby Bolton, South Dakota, one brave woman is standing up for justice in a small town threatened by sinister forces. If she’s going to live long enough to testify, she’ll need help. Because a killer is coming to Bolton, a coldly proficient assassin who never misses.

Reacher’s original plan was to keep on moving. But the next 61 hours will change everything. The secrets are deadlier and his enemies are stronger than he could have guessed—but so is the woman whose life he’ll risk his own to save.
 
In 61 Hours, Lee Child has written a showdown thriller with an explosive ending that readers will talk about for a long time to come.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Fan Letter by Lee Child

They say the past is another country, and in my case it really was: provincial England at the end of the fifties and the start of the sixties, the last gasp of the post-war era, before it surrendered to the tectonic shift sparked by the Beatles. My family was neither rich nor poor, not that either condition had much meaning in a society with not much to buy and not much to lack. We accumulated toys at the rate of two a year: one on our birthdays, and one at Christmas. We had a big table radio (which we called "the wireless") in the dining room, and in the living room we had a black and white fishbowl television, full of glowing tubes, but there were only two channels, and they went off the air at ten in the evening, after playing the National Anthem, for which some families stood up, and sometimes we saw a double bill at the pictures on a Saturday morning, but apart from that we had no entertainment.

So we read books. As it happens I just saw some old research from that era which broke down reading habits by class (as so much was categorized in England at that time) and which showed that fully fifty percent of the middle class regarded reading as their main leisure activity. The figure for skilled workers was twenty-five percent, and even among laborers ten percent turned to books as a primary choice.

Not that we bought them. We used the library. Ours was housed in a leftover WW2 Nissen hut (the British version of a Quonset hut) which sat on a bombed-out lot behind a church. It had a low door and a unique warm, musty, dusty smell, which I think came partly from the worn floorboards and partly from the books themselves, of which there were not very many. I finished with the children's picture books by the time I was four, and had read all the chapter books by the time I was eight, and had read all the grown-up books by the time I was ten.

Not that I was unique - or even very bookish. I was one of the rough kids. We fought and stole and broke windows and walked miles to soccer games, where we fought some more. We were covered in scabs and scars. We had knives in our pockets - but we had books in our pockets too. Even the kids who couldn't read tried very hard to, because we all sensed there was more to life than the gray, pinched, post-war horizons seemed to offer. Traveling farther than we could walk in half a day was out of the question - but we could travel in our heads ... to Australia, Africa, America ... by sea, by air, on horseback, in helicopters, in submarines. Meeting people unlike ourselves was very rare ... but we could meet them on the page. For most of us, reading - and imagining, and dreaming - was as useful as breathing.

My parents were decent, dutiful people, and when my mother realized I had read everything the Nissen hut had to offer - most of it twice - she got me a library card for a bigger place the other side of the canal. I would head over there on a Friday afternoon after school and load up with the maximum allowed - six titles - which would make life bearable and get me through the week. Just. Which sounds ungrateful - my parents were doing their best, no question, but lively, energetic kids needed more than that time and place could offer. Once a year we went and spent a week in a trailer near the sea - no better or worse a vacation than anyone else got, for sure, but usually accompanied by lashing rain and biting cold and absolutely nothing to do.

The only thing that got me through one such week was Von Ryan's Express by David Westheimer. I loved that book. It was a WW2 prisoner-of-war story full of tension and suspense and twists and turns, but its biggest "reveal" was moral rather than physical - what at first looked like collaboration with the enemy turned out to be resistance and escape. I read it over and over that week and never forgot it.

Then almost forty years later, when my own writing career was picking up a head of steam, I got a fan letter signed by a David Westheimer. The handwriting was shaky, as if the guy was old. I wondered, could it be? I wrote back and asked, are you the David Westheimer? Turned out yes, it was. We started a correspondence that lasted until he died. I met him in person at a book signing I did in California, near his home, which gave me a chance to tell him how he had kept me sane in a rain-lashed trailer all those years ago. He said he had had the same kind of experience forty years before that. Now I look forward to writing a fan letter to a new author years from now ... and maybe hearing my books had once meant something special to him or her. Because that's what books do - they dig deeper, they mean more, they stick around forever.

Janet Maslin
…the 14th, craftiest and most highly evolved of Lee Child's electrifying Jack Reacher books…What heats 61 Hours to the boiling point is Mr. Child's decision to defy his own conventions. In the interests of pure gamesmanship he seems hellbent on doing everything differently this time.
—The New York Times
Marilyn Stasio
Forced to sit tight for a few days, [Reacher] finds himself minding an interesting older woman marked for elimination because she witnessed a crime. The encounter gives Reacher a chance to talk more than he usually does, but it doesn't slow him down a bit.
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
After a brief stop in New York City (Gone Tomorrow), Jack Reacher is back in his element—Smalltown, U.S.A.—in bestseller Child's fine 14th thriller to feature the roving ex-military cop. When a tour bus on which he bummed a ride skids off the road and crashes, Reacher finds himself in Bolton, S.Dak., a tiny burg with big problems. A highly sophisticated methamphetamine lab run by a vicious Mexican drug cartel has begun operating outside town at an abandoned military facility. After figuring out the snow-bound, marooned Reacher's smart, great with weapons, and capable of tapping military intelligence, the helpless local cops enlist his assistance, and, as always, he displays plenty of derring-do, mental acuity, and good old-fashioned decency. While the action is slower than usual, series fans will appreciate some new insights that Child provides into his hero's psyche and background as well as a cliffhanger ending. Author tour. (May)
Publishers Weekly
Narrator Dick Hill has been perfecting Reacher's hard-boiled verbal swagger for years. In this installment, Reacher is stranded in a snow-bound South Dakota town where a biker gang has turned an abandoned facility into a meth lab. A member of the gang is in prison awaiting trial, and a hit man has been hired to remove the only witness to the crime, a 70-something librarian. According to a curious stipulation, every time the prison's trouble gong sounds every policeman in town must report there immediately--even if it means leaving the sweet old librarian to the mercy of the unknown assassin. Happily, none of these convolutions give Hill pause. It's his job to entertain, and that he does, almost chuckling as he describes Reacher's takedown of two giant bikers, relishing the hero's heralded powers of observation, or summoning up a large, accented ration of nastiness for the villain of the piece, a diminutive Mexican crime boss named Plato. When the book finally arrives at the end of its 61-hour countdown, thanks to Hill the time seems to have been well spent. A Delacorte hardcover (Reviews, Mar. 1). (May)
From the Publisher

"[The] craftiest and most highly evolved of Lee Child’s electrifying Jack Reacher books… The truth about Reacher gets better and better."The New York Times

"Child is a superb craftsman of suspense, juggling several plots and keeping his herrings well-rouged….Best of all, this is a rare series book that reads like a stand-alone. Everything you need to know about Jack Reacher is contained within its pages. And chances are you'll want to seek out other Reacher adventures the moment you finish." —Entertainment Weekly (A-)

"Jack Reacher is much more like the heir to the Op and Marlowe than Spenser ever was."
Esquire

"As usual, Child's writing is superb. Not only is this thriller believable, but the descriptions of the blizzard will make readers want to hug their furnaces. Fast paced and exciting, this is highly recommended for thriller fans." —Library Journal (starred review)
 
"Get prepared for teeth-chattering suspense….Child sets up one of his most ingenious plots in the Jack Reacher chronicles. A fiery finale will leave fans talking and speculating for weeks to come." —Madison County Herald
 
"Child deepens the mystery considerably, providing an explosive climax that will have you tearing out your hair until Reacher's next appearance." —Miami Herald

"Once again, Child spins a riveting, ticking-clock Jack Reacher adventure….It’s guarantees you’ll finish this one in less than 61 hours—and the jolter conclusion will shock and awe you." —Romantic Times Book Review

"Implausible, irresistible Reacher remains just about the best butt-kicker in thriller-lit."Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Child keeps his foot hard on the throttle...As always, Child delivers enough juicy details about the landscape, the characters, and Reacher’s idiosyncrasies to give the story texture and lower our pulse rates, if only momentarily...This is Child in top form, but isn’t he always?"Booklist (starred review)

Library Journal
Large and deadly, footloose former army major Jack Reacher returns in his 14th outing (after Gone Tomorrow). This time, the retired military cop gets stranded by a ferocious blizzard in the town of Bolton, SD. Reacher has to deal with a hired assassin, a prison breakout, a mob of biker thugs, a secret government installation, a clutch of senior citizen tourists who thought a frigid vacation in South Dakota would save money, and a witness who needs protection from a murderous drug lord from Mexico. Just an ordinary day on the job for Reacher as the "61 hours" count down to an exciting climax. VERDICT Child's protagonist is a wandering knight who always finds trouble and inevitably solves it, with satisfying violence. As usual, Child's writing is superb. Not only is this thriller believable, but the descriptions of the blizzard will make readers want to hug their furnaces. Fast paced and exciting, this is highly recommended for thriller fans. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/10; library marketing.]—Robert Conroy, Warren, MI
Kirkus Reviews
When a bus full of seniors spins out of control, the obvious recourse is to reach out for Reacher (Gone Tomorrow, 2009, etc.). On its way to Mt. Rushmore, a bus carrying a load of elderly tourists, plus a ringer, loses to a patch of ice. Reacher's the ringer. Some 30 years younger than the average age of his fellow passengers, he's among them by happenstance, a kind of hitchhiker. Reacher-that inveterate nomad, indefatigable Rambo and Galahad for all seasons-finds himself once more in the midst of an authentic mess. Banged up and inoperable, the bus has come to rest in Bolton, S.D., a town buried in snow and heaps of trouble. There's the biker gang living on its outskirts, making crystal meth. There's a repellent figure named Plato, a racketeering lowlife, whose philosophy is kill everything on the theory that if it lives, whatever it is, it might at some point have a negative Platonic effect. And then there's grandmotherly Janet Salter. Sweet, smart, elegant and pound for pound as brave as Reacher, she's a retired librarian, from Oxford's Bodleian, no less. She's also a witness to a grisly murder. Desperate to keep her alive, the Bolton PD has begun to think it might not be able to. Andrew Peterson, the department's deputy chief, wants to ask Reacher for help. And when his reluctant boss asks why, he says, "I think he's the sort of guy who sees things five seconds before the rest of the world." Well, he's right about that, of course, but even Reacher will be shaken by some of what he sees before exiting Bolton en route to Nowhere, his country of choice. In his 14th outing, implausible, irresistible Reacher remains just about the best butt-kicker in thriller-lit.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780440243694
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/28/2010
  • Series: Jack Reacher Series , #14
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 512
  • Sales rank: 32,157
  • Product dimensions: 7.46 (w) x 11.26 (h) x 1.23 (d)

Meet the Author

Lee Child
 
Lee Child is the author of fourteen Jack Reacher thrillers, including the New York Times bestsellers Persuader, The Enemy, One Shot, and The Hard Way, and the #1 bestsellers Gone Tomorrow, Bad Luck and Trouble, and Nothing to Lose. His debut, Killing Floor, won both the Anthony and the Barry awards for Best First Mystery, and The Enemy won both the Barry and Nero awards for Best Novel. Foreign rights in the Reacher series have sold in forty territories. All titles have been optioned for major motion pictures. Child, a native of England and a former television director, lives in New York City, where he is at work on his next thriller.

Biography

Lee Child was born in 1954 in Coventry, England, but spent his formative years in the nearby city of Birmingham. By coincidence he won a scholarship to the same high school that JRR Tolkien had attended. He went to law school in Sheffield, England, and after part-time work in the theater he joined Granada Television in Manchester for what turned out to be an eighteen-year career as a presentation director during British TV's "golden age." During his tenure his company made Brideshead Revisited, The Jewel in the Crown, Prime Suspect, and Cracker. But he was fired in 1995 at the age of 40 as a result of corporate restructuring. Always a voracious reader, he decided to see an opportunity where others might have seen a crisis and bought six dollars' worth of paper and pencils and sat down to write a book, Killing Floor, the first in the Jack Reacher series.

Killing Floor was an immediate success and launched the series which has grown in sales and impact with every new installment.

Lee has three homes —an apartment in Manhattan, a country house in the south of France, and whatever airplane cabin he happens to be in while traveling between the two. In the US he drives a supercharged Jaguar, which was built in Jaguar's Browns Lane plant, thirty yards from the hospital in which he was born.

Lee spends his spare time reading, listening to music, and watching the Yankees, Aston Villa, or Marseilles soccer. He is married with a grown-up daughter. He is tall and slim, despite an appalling diet and a refusal to exercise.

Good To Know

Lee Child is the author of sixteen Jack Reacher thrillers, including the New York Times bestsellers Persuader, The Enemy, One Shot, The Hard Way, and #1 bestsellers Bad Luck and Trouble and Nothing to Lose. His debut, Killing Floor, won both the Anthony and the Barry awards for Best First Mystery, and The Enemy won both the Barry and Nero awards for Best Novel. Foreign rights in the Jack Reacher series have sold in forty territories. All titles have been optioned for major motion pictures.

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    1. Hometown:
      Birmingham, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 30, 1953
    2. Place of Birth:
      Coventry, England
    1. Education:
      Sheffield University
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Five minutes to three in the afternoon. Exactly sixty-one  hours before it happened. The lawyer drove in and parked in the empty lot. There was an inch of new snow on the ground, so he spent a minute fumbling in the foot well until his overshoes were secure. Then he got out and turned his collar up and walked to the visitors’ entrance. There was a bitter wind out of the north. It was thick with fat lazy flakes. There was a storm sixty miles away. The radio had been full of it.

The lawyer got in through the door and stamped the snow off his feet. There was no line. It was not a regular visiting day. There was nothing ahead of him except an empty room and an empty X-ray belt and a metal detector hoop and three prison guards standing around doing nothing. He nodded to them, even though he didn’t know them. But he considered himself on their side, and they on his. Prison was a binary world. Either you were locked up, or you weren’t. They weren’t. He wasn’t.

Yet.

He took a gray plastic bin off the top of a teetering stack and folded his overcoat into it. He took off his suit coat and folded it and laid it on top of the overcoat. It was hot in the prison. Cheaper to burn a little extra oil than to give the inmates two sets of clothes, one for the summer and one for the winter. He could hear their noise ahead of him, the clatter of metal and concrete and the random crazy yells and the screams and the low grumble of other disaffected voices, all muted by doglegged corridors and many closed doors.

He emptied his pants pockets of keys, and wallet, and cell phone, and coins, and nested those clean warm personal items on top of his suit coat. He picked up the gray plastic bin. Didn’t carry it to the X-ray belt. Instead he hefted it across the room to a small window in a wall. He waited there and a woman in uniform took it and gave him a numbered ticket in exchange for it.

He braced himself in front of the metal detector hoop. He patted his pockets and glanced ahead, expectantly, as if waiting for an invitation. Learned behavior, from air travel. The guards let him stand there for a minute, a small, nervous man in his shirt sleeves, empty-handed. No briefcase. No notebook. Not even a pen. He was not there to advise. He was there to be advised. Not to talk, but to listen, and he sure as hell wasn’t going to put what he heard anywhere near a piece of paper.

The guards beckoned him through. A green light and no beep, but still the first guard wanded him and the second patted him down. The third escorted him deeper into the complex, through doors designed never to be open unless the last and the next were closed, and around tight corners designed to slow a running man’s progress, and past thick green glass windows with watchful faces behind.

The lobby had been institutional, with linoleum on the floor and mint green paint on the walls and fluorescent tubes on the ceiling. And the lobby had been connected to the outside, with gusts of cold air blowing in when the door was opened, and salt stains and puddles of snowmelt on the floor. The prison proper was different. It had no connection to the outside. No sky, no weather. No attempt at décor. It was all raw concrete, already rubbed greasy where sleeves and shoulders had touched it, still pale and dusty where they hadn’t. Underfoot was grippy gray paint, like the floor of an auto enthusiast’s garage. The lawyer’s overshoes squeaked on it.

There were four interview rooms. Each was a windowless concrete cube divided exactly in half by a wall-to-wall desk-height counter with safety glass above. Caged lights burned on the ceiling above the counter. The counter was cast from concrete. The grain of the formwork lumber was still visible in it. The safety glass was thick and slightly green and was divided into three overlapping panes, to give two sideways listening slots. The center pane had a cut-out slot at the bottom, for documents. Like a bank. Each half of the room had its own chair, and its own door. Perfectly symmetrical. The lawyers entered one way, and the inmates entered the other. Later they left the same way they had come, each to a different destination.

The guard opened the door from the corridor and stepped a yard into the room for a visual check that all was as it should be. Then he stood aside and let the lawyer enter. The lawyer stepped in and waited until the guard closed the door behind him and left him alone. Then he sat down and checked his watch. He was eight minutes late. He had driven slow, because of the weather. Normally he would have regarded it as a failure to be late for an appointment. Unprofessional, and disrespectful. But prison visits were different. Time meant nothing to prisoners.

Another eight minutes later the other door opened, in the wall behind the glass. A different guard stepped in and checked and then stepped back out and a prisoner shuffled in. The lawyer’s client. He was white, and enormously overweight, marbled with fat, and completely hairless. He was dressed in an orange jumpsuit. He had wrist and waist and ankle chains that looked as delicate as jewelry. His eyes were dull and his face was docile and vacant, but his mouth was moving a little, like a simpleminded person struggling to retain complex information.

The door in the wall behind the glass closed.

The prisoner sat down.

The lawyer hitched his chair close to the counter.

The prisoner did the same.

Symmetrical.

The lawyer said, “I’m sorry I’m late.”

The prisoner didn’t answer.

The lawyer asked, “How are you?”

The prisoner didn’t answer. The lawyer went quiet. The air in the room was hot. A minute later the prisoner started talking, reciting, working his way through lists and instructions and sentences and paragraphs he had committed to memory. From time to time the lawyer said, “Slow down a bit,” and on each occasion the guy paused and waited and then started up again at the head of the previous sentence with no change in his pace and no alteration to his singsong delivery. It was as if he had no other way of communicating.

The lawyer had what he considered to be a pretty good memory, especially for detail, like most lawyers, and he was paying a lot of attention, because to concentrate on the process of remembering distracted him from the actual content of the instructions he was getting. But even so some small corner of his mind had counted fourteen separate criminal proposals before the prisoner finally finished up and sat back.

The lawyer said nothing.

The prisoner said, “Got all that?”

The lawyer nodded and the prisoner lapsed into a bovine stillness. Or equine, like a donkey in a field, infinitely patient. Time meant nothing to prisoners. Especially this one. The lawyer pushed his chair back and stood up. His door was unlocked. He stepped out to the corridor.

Five minutes to four in the afternoon.

Sixty hours to go.

The lawyer found the same guard waiting for him. He was back in the parking lot two minutes later. He was fully dressed again and his stuff was back in his pockets, all reassuringly weighty and present and normal. It was snowing harder by then and the air was colder and the wind was wilder. It was going dark, fast and early. The lawyer sat for a moment with his seat heating and his engine running and his wipers pushing berms of snow left and right on the windshield glass. Then he took off, a wide slow turn with his tires squeaking against the fresh fall and his headlight beams cutting bright arcs through the white swirl. He headed for the exit, the wire gates, the wait, the trunk check, and then the long straight road that led through town to the highway.

Fourteen criminal proposals. Fourteen actual crimes, if he relayed the proposals and they were acted upon, which they surely would be. Or fifteen crimes, because he himself would then become a co-conspirator. Or twenty-eight crimes, if a prosecutor chose to call each separate issue a separate conspiracy, which a prosecutor might, just for the fun of it. Or just for the glory. Twenty-eight separate paths to shame and ignominy and disbarment, and trial and conviction and imprisonment. Life imprisonment, almost certainly, given the nature of one of the fourteen proposals, and only then after a successful plea bargain. A failed plea bargain was too awful to contemplate.

The lawyer made it around the highway cloverleaf and merged into the slow lane. All around him was the thick gray of falling snow in the late afternoon. Not much traffic. Just occasional cars and trucks going his way, some of them faster and some of them slower, answered by occasional cars and trucks going the other way, across the divider. He drove one-handed and jacked up off the seat and took out his cell phone. Weighed it in his hand. He had three choices. One, do nothing. Two, call the number he had been told to call. Three, call the number he really should call, which under the circumstances was 911, with hasty backups to the local PD and the Highway Patrol and the county sheriffs and the Bar Association, and then a lawyer of his own.

He chose the second option, like he knew he would. Choice number one would get him nowhere, except a little later, when they came to find him. Choice number three would get him dead, slowly and eventually, after what he was sure would be hours or even days of hideous agony. He was a small nervous man. No kind of a hero.

He dialed the number he had been told to dial.

He checked it twice and hit the green button. He raised the phone to his ear, which in many states would be a twenty-ninth crime all its own.

But not in South Dakota.

Not yet.

Small mercies.

The voice that answered was one he had heard four times before. Coarse, and rough, and laced with a kind of rude animal menace. A voice from what the lawyer thought of as another world entirely. It said, “Shoot, buddy,” with a smile and an overtone of cruel enjoyment, as if the speaker was enjoying his absolute power and control, and the lawyer’s own consequent discomfort and fear and revulsion.

The lawyer swallowed once and started talking, reciting the lists and the instructions and the sentences and the paragraphs in much the same way they had been relayed to him. He started talking seven miles and seven minutes from a highway bridge. The bridge didn’t look much like a bridge. The roadbed continued absolutely level but the land below it fell away a little into a wide shallow gulch. The gulch was dry most of the year, but five months from then spring melt water would rage through it in a torrent. The highway engineers had smoothed the gulch into a neat culvert and packed forty giant concrete tubes under the roadbed, all to stop the foundation getting washed away once a year. It was a system that worked well in the spring. It had only one drawback, which showed up in the winter. To counter it the engineers had placed signs ahead in both directions. The signs said: Bridge Freezes Before Road.

The lawyer drove and talked. Seven minutes into his monologue he reached the most obviously naked and blunt and brutal and egregious of the fourteen proposals. He recited it into the phone the same way he had heard it in the prison, which was neutrally and without emotion. The coarse voice on the other end of the phone laughed. Which made the lawyer shudder. A core moral spasm came up literally from deep inside him. It jerked his shoulders noticeably and ground the phone across his ear.

And moved his hand on the wheel.

His front tires slipped a little on the bridge ice and he corrected clumsily and his rear tires swung the other way and fishtailed once, twice, three times. He slid across all three lanes. Saw a bus coming the opposite way through the falling snow. It was white. It was huge. It was moving fast. It was coming straight at him. The back part of his brain told him a collision was inevitable. The front part of his brain told him no, he had space and time and a grass median and two stout metal barriers between him and any kind of oncoming traffic. He bit his lip and relaxed his grip and straightened up and the bus blew past him exactly parallel and twenty feet away.

He breathed out.

The voice on the phone asked, “What?”

The lawyer said, “I skidded.”

The voice said, “Finish the report, asshole.”

The lawyer swallowed again and resumed talking, at the head of the previous sentence.

The man driving the white bus in the opposite direction was a twelve-year veteran of his trade. In the small world of his specialized profession he was about as good as it got. He was properly licensed and well trained and adequately experienced. He was no longer young, and not yet old. Mentally and physically he was up there on a broad plateau of common sense and maturity and peak capability. He was not behind schedule. He was not speeding. He was not drunk. He was not high.

But he was tired.

He had been staring into featureless horizontal snow for the best part of two hours. He saw the fishtailing car a hundred yards ahead. Saw it dart diagonally straight at him. His fatigue produced a split second of dull delay. Then the numb tension in his tired body produced an overreaction. He yanked the wheel like he was flinching from a blow. Too much, too late. And unnecessary, anyway. The sliding car had straightened and was already behind him before his own front tires bit. Or tried to. They hit the bridge ice just as the steering told them to turn. They lost grip and skated. All the weight was in the rear of the bus. The huge cast-iron engine block. The water tank. The toilet. Like a pendulum, way back there. The rear of the bus set about trying to overtake the front of the bus. It didn’t get far. Just a few crucial degrees. The driver did everything right. He fought the skid. But the steering was feather light and the front tires had lost traction. There was no feedback. The back of the bus came back in line and then swung out the other way.

The driver fought hard for three hundred yards. Twelve long seconds. They felt like twelve long hours. He spun the big plastic wheel left, spun it right, tried to catch the skid, tried to stop it building. But it built anyway. It gathered momentum. The big pendulum weight at the back slammed one way, slammed the other. The soft springs crushed and bounced. The tall body tilted and yawed. The back of the bus swung forty-five degrees left, then forty-five right. Bridge Freezes Before Road. The bus passed over the last of the concrete tubes and the front tires bit again. But they bit while they were turned diagonally toward the shoulder. The whole bus turned in that direction, as if following a legitimate command. As if it was suddenly obedient again. The driver braked hard. Fresh snow dammed in front of the tires. The bus held its new line. It slowed.

But not enough.

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Interviews & Essays

The Fan Letter by Lee Child

They say the past is another country, and in my case it really was: provincial England at the end of the fifties and the start of the sixties, the last gasp of the post-war era, before it surrendered to the tectonic shift sparked by the Beatles. My family was neither rich nor poor, not that either condition had much meaning in a society with not much to buy and not much to lack. We accumulated toys at the rate of two a year: one on our birthdays, and one at Christmas. We had a big table radio (which we called "the wireless") in the dining room, and in the living room we had a black and white fishbowl television, full of glowing tubes, but there were only two channels, and they went off the air at ten in the evening, after playing the National Anthem, for which some families stood up, and sometimes we saw a double bill at the pictures on a Saturday morning, but apart from that we had no entertainment.

So we read books. As it happens I just saw some old research from that era which broke down reading habits by class (as so much was categorized in England at that time) and which showed that fully fifty percent of the middle class regarded reading as their main leisure activity. The figure for skilled workers was twenty-five percent, and even among laborers ten percent turned to books as a primary choice.

Not that we bought them. We used the library. Ours was housed in a leftover WW2 Nissen hut (the British version of a Quonset hut) which sat on a bombed-out lot behind a church. It had a low door and a unique warm, musty, dusty smell, which I think came partly from the worn floorboards and partly from the books themselves, of which there were not very many. I finished with the children's picture books by the time I was four, and had read all the chapter books by the time I was eight, and had read all the grown-up books by the time I was ten.

Not that I was unique - or even very bookish. I was one of the rough kids. We fought and stole and broke windows and walked miles to soccer games, where we fought some more. We were covered in scabs and scars. We had knives in our pockets - but we had books in our pockets too. Even the kids who couldn't read tried very hard to, because we all sensed there was more to life than the gray, pinched, post-war horizons seemed to offer. Traveling farther than we could walk in half a day was out of the question - but we could travel in our heads ... to Australia, Africa, America ... by sea, by air, on horseback, in helicopters, in submarines. Meeting people unlike ourselves was very rare ... but we could meet them on the page. For most of us, reading - and imagining, and dreaming - was as useful as breathing.

My parents were decent, dutiful people, and when my mother realized I had read everything the Nissen hut had to offer - most of it twice - she got me a library card for a bigger place the other side of the canal. I would head over there on a Friday afternoon after school and load up with the maximum allowed - six titles - which would make life bearable and get me through the week. Just. Which sounds ungrateful - my parents were doing their best, no question, but lively, energetic kids needed more than that time and place could offer. Once a year we went and spent a week in a trailer near the sea - no better or worse a vacation than anyone else got, for sure, but usually accompanied by lashing rain and biting cold and absolutely nothing to do.

The only thing that got me through one such week was Von Ryan's Express by David Westheimer. I loved that book. It was a WW2 prisoner-of-war story full of tension and suspense and twists and turns, but its biggest "reveal" was moral rather than physical - what at first looked like collaboration with the enemy turned out to be resistance and escape. I read it over and over that week and never forgot it.

Then almost forty years later, when my own writing career was picking up a head of steam, I got a fan letter signed by a David Westheimer. The handwriting was shaky, as if the guy was old. I wondered, could it be? I wrote back and asked, are you the David Westheimer? Turned out yes, it was. We started a correspondence that lasted until he died. I met him in person at a book signing I did in California, near his home, which gave me a chance to tell him how he had kept me sane in a rain-lashed trailer all those years ago. He said he had had the same kind of experience forty years before that. Now I look forward to writing a fan letter to a new author years from now ... and maybe hearing my books had once meant something special to him or her. Because that's what books do - they dig deeper, they mean more, they stick around forever.

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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 1324 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 8, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    61 Hours

    Jack Reacher is certainly back in Lee Childs's 61 Hours and gets himself stuck in a small town in South Dakota in the middle of winter were it is colder than cold. The small town of Bolton is right outside a newly built prison and a gang of meth dealers have made their home on an abandoned army facility. It doesn't take long before the sheriff asks Reacher for help. From the moment the story begins until its explosive climax, Child keeps the action going as the entire story takes place within 61 hours!

    15 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 27, 2010

    Not Mr. Child's Best Effort

    I am a dyed-in-the-wool fan of Jack Reacher. This latest entry, however, left me shaking my head. Certain plot elements Mr. Child uses to drive the story were just ludicrous. Readers should be prepared to suspend disbelief to a degree not usually required by a Jack Reacher novel (though it is required to some extent in all the novels). I understand that the cliffhanger ending is leading to a follow-up novel. I can only hope the follow-up redeems Mr. Child's stellar reputation.

    14 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 4, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    exciting Reacher thriller

    Military police officer Jack Reacher hitches a ride with a senior citizen church group tour bus in South Dakota. However, a car ahead fishtails on the icy snow laden road; the experienced but tired bus driver overreacts on the frozen bridge; he does everything else right, but weight wins out and the bus crashes near Bolton.

    The local cops are slow on helping the twenty elderly passengers; the bus driver remains in shock. Reacher takes over. However, in town, he will find the reason behind the delay is a methamphetamine lab run by a brutal Mexican cartel out of a nearby abandoned military post. At the same time Reacher helps the Washingtonians, an assassin has arrived in Bolton to kill a brave witness, her lawyer, and the outsider who suddenly protects her.

    This is an exciting Reacher thriller as the storm and two upcoming storms isolate the already remote town. Fast-paced throughout, the early chapters have little two fisted action, but grip the audience with insight into the roaming hero as his ethics insist he help the passengers and then the townsfolk, especially law enforcement who realize they are out of their league with the cartel. Readers will enjoy the clock ticking down on Reacher and others as the inevitable showdown in the Badlands is imminent.

    Harriet Klausner

    13 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 21, 2010

    For This Huge Reacher Fan - A disappointment

    Like so many fans of Lee Child's Jack Reacher, I couldn't wait for this book. However, it's certainly the worst in the series. With every potential to make this a great story, I thought the writing style was monotonous, and the plot was far from a thriller. The characters were well developed - Reacher was great - but this one just didn't come together. The ending was a disappointment. Hopefully the next book will get the series back on track...

    12 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 1, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Completely captivating!

    The perfect hero, Jack Reacher, the drifter who travels light and doesn't look back, quick-thinking, wise, smart, tough, no-fear guy with an army background finds himself on a bus in South Dakota in the middle of a blizzard. Reacher has hitched a ride on a bus tour of senior citizens. When the bus crashes, he finds himself in Bolton, the location for a recently built prison. A crooked lawyer conducts some shady business at the prison and then skids on the slippery road, sending the bus crashing into a ditch. Reacher does what he can to assist the injured and dazed victims until the police arrive at the scene. Jack soon becomes acquainted with an elderly woman named Janet Salter, whose testimony could help put away the leader of a huge methamphetamine ring. Although Janet already has police protection, the setup is far from secure. Unfortunately, the bad guys know where she lives and plan to silence her. Salter senses that Reacher is her kindred spirit and the two form a strong bond. Reacher decides to guard Salter, who needs someone smart, strong, and resourceful, someone who can think out of the box to outwit these criminals. This is one that will appeal to men and women, young and old! It's intense, gripping and heart-warming all in one! So Exciting!!

    11 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 5, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Reacher rocks!

    I've read every Lee Child book there is and adore Jack Reacher. You have to feel for the guy, as he just wants to keep his head down, stay out of trouble, and keep moving. Yet he keeps getting pulled into situations where he has no choice but to help strangers, as he can't walk away from doing the right thing. That's why I love Reacher, as he's one of the good guys.

    This is another great Reacher book and if you've enjoyed the others, I'm pretty sure you'll like this one as well. The only thing I didn't care for was the countdown throughout the book, letting us know how many hours were left. Could have done without that, but it's a small thing and don't think it would bother anyone else but me.

    Child is a very good writer, and Reacher is a very good character. You know that if you pick up one of his books, you're going to get a good story. Great pacing, good plot, and believable characters. Was a little surprised by the ending, which I hadn't seen coming, and can't wait to see what Child has up his sleeve for the next book! Highly recommended!

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 1, 2010

    Reacher at it again!

    I have read all of Lee Child's Jack Reacher series and have liked everyone of them, including "61 Hours." Without going into any detail and giving away anything, he definitely leaves the ending open for a follow-up novel which is okay with me. I personally felt that this novel showed you a deeper side of Reacher. I definitely would recommend it. Can't wait until his next one -- love all his adventures!

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 10, 2010

    Not My Favorite

    This was my least favorite book from Lee Child. The author made my favorite character, Reacher, look inept, slow, not as sharp as he should've been. I figured everything out in the first hour. It took this Reacher 61 hours....not good...Bring my smart Reacher back!!!!!!!

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 25, 2010

    Avoid "Jack Reacher Withdraw"! Buy 2 at a time.

    Lee Child's main character Jack Reacher is the guy you want and need on your side. Action-packed, intense and addictive, Child's books are dynamite in print. A suggestion to avid readers...avoid "Reacher withdraw" by purchasing two different Lee Child titles at a time. They are fine reading and absolutely habit-forming.

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 17, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Typical lousy exploitation of loyal readers who grow fond of a character.

    Dear Lee Child,

    The previous Reacher was a fair return to the quality you invested in the first several books in this series. After book 4 in the series, your rating has consistently risen on the "Suckometer".

    If your going to whore out your keystrokes like you did on this one, PLEASE just retire, or get a better ghost writer for Crist sakes!

    At this point your ripping off your readers.

    Sincerely, a disappointed fan who used to enjoy your books...

    5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 31, 2010

    61 Hours

    61 Hours is the fourteenth book by author Lee Child in his acclaimed Jack Reacher series. The long running action/mystery series is based around former military cop Jack Reacher. After serving in the Army for thirteen years, and having grown up on Marine bases all over the world, he travels all around the country with no destination in mind carrying nothing but the clothes on his back and a fold-up toothbrush. Most times he's either walking or hitchhiking. Unfortunately for Reacher, trouble seems to find him wherever he goes.

    In this latest installment in the series, which Stephen King has coined "man fiction"(source: Entertainment Weekly, October 12, 2008), Jack Reacher finds himself on a bus in South Dakota on the way to Mount Rushmore in the middle of a major snowstorm. In the middle of nowhere, the bus hits a patch of ice and goes off the road. From that moment until the very end, it is abundantly clear that Reacher is a highly intelligent and resourceful man. He tends to the injured and keeps everyone as calm as possible. After a while the passengers and driver of the bus are shuttled off to the nearest town of Bolton and that's where the mystery begins.

    As soon as he gets to Bolton it is clear to Reacher that something isn't right and something very big is going on. From there begins a story of meth dealing bikers, an old and mysterious military compound, a prosecutorial witness in danger, and the mystery assassin sent to wipe her out before she testifies. It's up to Jack Reacher to get to the bottom of things before it's too late.

    Even though the book is part of a series based around Jack Reacher, you don't need to have read any of the other books to understand what's going on in the newest installment. From page one this book moves with the speed and precision we have come to expect from a Lee Child novel. The action is intense, the mystery is complex and intriguing, and the characters feel very real. It's difficult to keep coming up with fresh ideas for your protagonist after fourteen books but Lee Child has succeeded once again. From the moment you start reading you'll be dying to find out what happens next and you'll be tossed around by the plot twists.

    The only bad thing is that once you've finish reading you are struck with the realization that it will be another year before the next book comes to shelves. We can only hope that Child continues to churn out great stories surrounding our hero Jack Reacher. If the past is any indication, we won't have anything to worry about for a long time to come.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 22, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent book with a poor set-up

    Lee Child is an amazing writer. His dialogue is sharp and his novels are filled with astute observations showing a real sense of people and situations. This book, while technically very good, never came together for me. I am a retired police officer who, among other things held a command rank and had a jail as one of the units reporting to me. None of the police aspects of the book rang true. The police department is too large, the precautions taken to guard the witness are absurd, the deal with the prison that drives much of the plot is simply laughable. Ditto with the notion that an inmate could avoid lockdown and not be missed for several hours in a modern, high-security institution. Aside from those large holes in the plot, the story is well told and worth the time, effort and money. You just have to squint really hard, as Pogo might have said.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 30, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Why did I read this???

    61 Hours should have ended in the first hour. It would've been much easier on me as well as the 17 other people who wasted their time reading this book. Not only am I appalled at the thought of peddling this trash to masses but Lee has the audacity to sell his propaganda without regard to the CHILDREN OF AMERICA! Lee Child, you have done it again my friend!!

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 25, 2010

    61 hours of disappointment

    Wow, what a huge disappointment for me. This is by far the bottom of the barrel for Lee Child. This book was so predictable that I had it solved the second time the bad guy interacted with Reacher. It seemed every opportunity for Reacher to be Reacher was wasted. Finally the ending was so off the mark that I wondered if Lee Child actually wrote the book. It took me 3 tries to get the correct book from BN.com and right now I feel it was a waste of my time. Let us hope that Lee Child can find Reacher for us before the next book in the series.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2011

    Good but not one of the best.

    I'm a very big fan of Lee Child and have been reading the Jack Reacher series. This novel unlike his others lacked the suspense. The characters were just not that strong, and the villain, although typically violent, was not very devious. A prolific writer that Lee Child is, there has to be some stories that are not as riveting as the rest.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 18, 2011

    Child and Reacher do it again!

    Another awesome, amazing read featuring Jack Reacher. This is in my top three favorite books by Lee Child. He writes like a dream and creates a thrilling scene fraught with suspense and drama. I would very highly recommend the entire Jack Reacher series, especially Persuader and Echo Burning.
    You may also like the novels of Ruth Rendell, Ian Fleming, John D MacDonald, and Sue Grafton. The Charm School by Nelson DeMille is also a good read.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2010

    Riff off

    Your email list price a 9.99 but the website charges 14.99

    3 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 7, 2010

    One of the BEST Yet!!

    I purchased this book from the UK only because I could not wait for the US release date to read it. I am a HUGE Jack Reacher fan and this is by far one of the best in the series!! You must meet and read Jack Reacher!! Awesome books!!

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2013

    Not His Best

    A long and tiresome wait for the typical Reacher action to arise. Meanwhile, the countdown conceit only exacerbated the tedium.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 6, 2011

    spirit reader Great read

    really kept me on my toes, loved the characters. i will miss them

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 1324 Customer Reviews

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