61 Hours


Lee Child


Mystery & Thriller


Date Reviewed:

July 3, 2021

his novel, 61 Hours, is the fourteenth entry in the always excellent Jack Reacher series. This is the fourth Reacher novel that I have read - they can be read in any sequence (so far as I can tell). I pick them up at the annual library booksale; I plan to donate this book back to the library now that I have read it, so someone else can enjoy it.

Reacher has knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In 61 Hours, Reacher has gotten on a tourist bus that is shuttling a group of seniors across South Dakota on a bitterly cold and blizzard-y night. The bus skids off the road and becomes disabled - the passengers are suddenly in danger of freezing, including Reacher, who doesn't possess the warm weather gear needed to survive in this sub-zero environment. The police from the near-by town of Bolton come to the rescue. Reacher can't help but notice certain details that tell him that not all is well in Bolton, South Dakota. And, since this is what he does, Reacher becomes involved.

It turns out that Bolton, South Dakota is a prison town. It makes its money off of all the visitors and lawyers who visit the penitentiary. But just outside of town is a huge biker gang that is certainly dealing meth, but the police can find no reason to issue a warrant to investigate the grounds - the bikers hang out at an abandoned U.S military base, and they never violate any local laws. But it is obvious that the bikers are engaged in criminal activity. Indeed, they are involved with the notorious Mexican drug lord named Plato.

In Bolton, there is a courageous elderly lady named Jane Salter who is willing to testify that she saw a drug deal take place in town. Her testimony would be hugely important - it would give the police justification for busting up the bikers. A couple of murders have taken place in Bolton, and so Salter is given 24 police protection. But there is a catch - written into the contract that awarded the penitentiary to Bolton is a clause that the entire police force must come to the aid of the prison in case a convict escapes. Of course, this would leave Ms. Salter unprotected - except Reacher is not part of the Bolton police force.

There are some murders, and Reacher begins to wonder if there is crooked criminal on the Bolton police force. Or what about that bus drivers that "conveniently" lost control of his bus just outside Bolton when all of these events are coming to a head? There are plenty of suspects and it is up to Reacher to sort it all out. There is violence.

Child has a knack for writing page turners. I see there are now 32 entries in the series, perhaps I would tire of his novels if I actually tried to read them all. But 61 Hours is, I think, only the fourth one that I have read so far. 61 Hours is 494 paperback pages long, but I buzzed right through the entire novel. One minor complaint - Child sometimes add extraneous detail which seems completely pointless, as if he is padding the novel. But the book is already plenty long enough, so why add in all this detail. Look at this paragraph:

"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 cutout 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."

Isn't that too much information about the prison interview rooms? And no, none of those details turn out to be crucial plot points later in the novel. I would guess that an author that fills the pages which so much extraneous fluff would be tiresome. Yet the Reacher novels are compelling adventures. I guess Child has his style, and it obviously works for him and his millions of fans. I guess I am one of those fans!