There are some stories that are so compelling, so riveting, and just so good that re-entry to the real world upon completion is difficult. This is one of those stories. The general premise of the plot is simple enough: a special task force consisting of an alienist (known today as a psychologist or psychiatrist), his reporter friend, and several forward-thinking members of the NY police department set out to capture a dangerous and cunning serial killer. And while this story line has become somewhat hackneyed thanks to tedious TV shows like "Criminal Minds" and "CSI", in Carr's late 19th century NY, it is instead fascinatingly rich in intrigue. Part of what makes this story work so well is Carr's detailed knowledge of what life was like in NY at that point in history. Indeed, several key historical figures such as J.P Morgan and Theodore Roosevelt are given fictional roles in this tale. As the intrepid task force's investigation takes them to all corners of the city, from ramshackle tenement dwellings on the lower east side, to the gilded-age haunts of the uber-wealthy, it is impossible not to be pulled into Carr's richly detailed 19th century world. It is not a pretty place, by any means. Struggling with poverty, corruption, and depravity, the New York City of 1896 was a city in transition. Technological marvels like the Brooklyn bridge tower in sharp contrast to the dank, squalid houses of ill repute so commonly found at the time. And this is the perfect backdrop on which to weave a tale of a depraved serial killer--a monstrous product of this dark, seedy world--and an enlightened alienist's attempt to understand what could make such a man, in order to bring him to capture.
This is a book not to be missed, and one of my all-time favorites of the "mystery & thriller" genre. I have both read the print copy and listened to the audio version. The narrator does a great job with this superb work.
As a spy/mystery/thriller buff, I'm no stranger to the concept of a "series" of novels all featuring the same protagonist. As a kid, I read Ludlum's "Jason Bourne" books decades before Matt Damon made them mainstream with his portrayal of that character in the similarly named movies. In more recent years, I've had the great pleasure of reading Michael Connelly's "Harry Bosch" books, and Timothy Hallinan's "Poke Rafferty" novels, among many others. And while the series concepts offers a great deal of appeal to both author and reader--such as the slow, steady evolution of a character over time--there are disadvantages as well. One is that the stories can occasionally become formulaic. And while overall I enjoy Lee Child's "Jack Reacher" books very much, there are some that I've found to be a bit predictable.
This book, however, is a standout among Child's prodigious, and entertaining "Jack Reacher" output. In the character "Hook Hobie" Child has created one of the most uniquely sinister villains ever encountered in the genre. As a series of events unfolds, drawing Reacher and Hobie into an inevitable and mortal struggle, the fascinating back-story of Hobie's existence is revealed. By the time Reacher has finally put all the pieces of this puzzle together, Hobie's evil has reached it's crescendo, and the reader can hardly wait for Reacher to unleash his can of whoop-ass on Hobie in the fashion that only Jack Reacher can.
The narrator, Jon McClain, does a nice job with this Reacher novel, as he has on many others. In this case though, it is the story itself that is the star. For those looking for a great introduction to the Jack Reacher series, or for those long-time fans looking for a somewhat unconventional Reacher story, this is the one.
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