Review: “Bad Luck And Trouble” by Lee Child
I bought “Bad Luck And Trouble” by Lee Child quite by accident, at Waterstone’s West End in Edinburgh were offering it as some kind of branded reprint for a few quid. A novel featuring an ex-military protagonist fitted my project plans, so I decided to buy it for research. (Note: support your local bookshop!)
I’d never read any of Lee Child’s books, but the praise for the character and the book was high indeed. So, did the book deliver on its promises?
Plot-wise, at the end of the day it was well-crafted, with some twists and turns that kept me guessing. I did find it a bit slow to get going though, which surprised me. I think it was because for the first chunk our hero, Reacher, was getting his gang back together. Maybe if I’d read more Reacher beforehand, this would have been really cool, but for it wasn’t addressing the plot. I was reading through it to get to a point where things would start happening.
Character-wise, I found Reacher a bit flat. Not in terms of history—I thought his back-story was pretty good, although fir me his post-service history was less plausible. I mean, seriously? The guy has a bank account but he doesn’t even have a rucksack? He isn’t even prepared for inclement weather, despite his army training and mentality? It felt contrived, like the author wanted Reacher to be a drifter but still needed a way for people to contact him without involving something like email.
Actually, I think I found the ex-army characters all a bit too polite. All the ex-servicemen I’ve met (and I admit it’s not many, but it’s more than none) weren’t exactly silver-tongued cavaliers.
Setting-wise, I rather liked some of the touches where Los Angeles and Las Vegas are described. Having never been to either, I still felt that I had a good sense of each place.
Overall, I think this book could have been made punchier by cutting down what I felt was an intro. It had some good elements, and when the plot got going it was rather exciting, but perhaps the author found it difficult to fill a whole novel with it. I can see how on paper the plot would look like a single piece, but I found that once the main threat was identified, I didn’t care about what had come before, like it had just been preamble. I almost feel guilty for being down on the book, because I did enjoy it, but I was promised a roller-coaster ride a tough, uncompromising protagonist, and I’m afraid I didn’t really feel like it got that.
Take-home point: make sure the plot elements at the start of the book still feel relevant at the end, and that it doesn’t fee, like they could have been summarised in a couple of chapters.