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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Killing Floor

Lee Child

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To purchase Killing Floor

Title: Killing Floor
Author: Lee Child
Genre: Novel
Written: 1997
Length: 539 pages
Availability: Killing Floor - US
Killing Floor - UK
Killing Floor - Canada
Killing Floor - India
Du fond de l'abîme - France
Größenwahn - Deutschland
Zona pericolosa - Italia
Zona peligrosa - España
  • The first Jack Reacher novel
  • Killing Floor has been adapted for the screen in the first season of Reacher (2022), starring Alan Ritchson as Jack Reacher

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Our Assessment:

B : a bit excessive and simplistic, but mostly solid writing and pacing

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The NY Times . 2/2/1997 Deborah Stead
Publishers Weekly . 3/3/1997 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "With great style and careful plotting, the author peels away the town's facade to reveal the murderers and the motive for all this death" - Deborah Stead, The New York Times

  • "Although the tale is built around a coincidence as big as the author's talent, beautifully detailed action scenes and fascinating arcana about currency and counterfeiting enliven this taut and tough-minded first novel" - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Killing Floor is the first in the phenomenally successful series featuring Jack Reacher. Reacher has spent almost his entire life in the military, first as a military brat, growing up all over the world, then attending West Point, then serving, mainly, in the military police. When the book opens he's thirty-six, and six months into civilian life after being been honorably discharged.
       Reacher has no ties and he's been happy enough just traveling aimlessly around the country for the past half year. He travels light -- pretty much no baggage of any sort. He's definitely restless:

I had to wander. Like the song I was singing in my head. I had to ramble.
       His ramblings take him to Margrave, Georgia, where he gets off his Greyhound bus on a whim in the dead of night and walks into town. He barely has a chance to sit down for breakfast at a local diner before he's arrested, in a nice opening scene that shows how observant, cautious, and deliberate Reacher is, assessing the situation and how to react like the true pro that he is.
       Reacher immediately recognizes that the local chief of police, Morrison, is a "waste of space", but the chief of the department's detective bureau, Finlay, a black Boston PD veteran and Harvard (post)grad is a reasonable and smart fellow -- and Reacher explains to him why he can't be the one who committed the murder they've arrested him for. Reacher's story is reasonable, but they have to check out his alibis and it may take a while; there's pretty much no way he can avoid spending the weekend in holding -- at the local prison, since the town's department isn't equipped to house prisoners (or suspects) overnight.
       Digging into the case they come up with another name, pulling in a successful local banker for questioning. His actions confuse the issue even more, but with the weekend coming up it isn't going to be cleared up overnight: Reacher and the banker are sent to the prison -- where, Reacher quickly realizes, someone wants to kill one or both of them.
       Reacher's story checks out soon enough, and he's no longer under suspicion -- but something is obviously very wrong in town. When Reacher learns the identity of the original murder victim -- in a rather huge coïncidence, that Child finds the thinnest explanation for (but at least acknowledges as being thin: "That was one hell of a big coincidence. It was almost unbelievable") he has even more reason to stick around and figure out what the hell is going on. But there's the question of who to trust -- and Reacher decides it's at best a very small circle: Finlay and the attractive Office Roscoe, whom he quickly hooks and shacks up with. Finlay pulls in a friend at the FBI, but otherwise they try to keep what they're doing away from prying ears.
       Unsurprisingly, it turns out that the town is very crooked indeed, the centerpoint of a huge operation that was part of a Treasury Department investigation. But there's lots of secrecy surrounding everything, and the outside authorities can't get very involved. Meanwhile, it's clear who is running the show -- but getting to the bottom of it (like what the show actually involves), and who else might be involved (meaning also who can and can't be trusted) is challenging. Especially since Reacher and some other locals find themselves being more or less hunted.
       There's also some time pressure, a Sunday deadline that rapidly approaches -- even as Reacher and his new friends struggle to put together what the huge-scale criminal operation actually involves, and how it operates. What they do know is that the bad guys take no prisoners -- and like to make an example of those who cross them, if possible. And while Reacher and Finlay can eventually identify nine of the ten people they know are (or were) actively involved in the plot, the identity of the final co-conspirator remains elusive (though readers probably see that one coming).
       Reacher is an interesting, strong character. There's a lot of deliberation and planning, and Child presents Reacher well as a real professional -- much of whose profession has to do with violence -- who is patient and knows how to be careful. Reacher is also presented as a fairly good guy -- but he has few qualms about killing the scum he encounters if he has to. And there is lots of scum, and are lots of cases when he has to.
       Child's story veers into the excessive and silly on occasion, but with controlled Reacher as the narrator it gives the book and story a solid, almost reasonable-sounding foundation. It is ultimately an over the top fantasy-thriller, both regarding the crime and the criminals' reach -- right down to too-neat Margrave ("the most immaculate town I had ever seen") a town so flush with cash that no one seems to do any real work -- and the violence. Also the distances traveled -- Reacher drives and flies far and wide. (Some of the less likely elements -- such as how Finlay wound up in Margrave -- at least add a nice humorous touch.) But it's just plausible enough -- and nicely detailed and observed -- to make for an engaging enough read, bouncing rapidly and constantly from one tense situation or confrontation to the next.
       An action-thriller, nothing more, but solid enough as that.

- M.A.Orthofer, 13 August 2017

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Killing Floor: Reviews: Reacher - the TV series: Lee Child: Other books by Lee Child under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       British author Lee Child was born in 1954.

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