Killing Floor, by Lee Child

A few weeks ago, I danced briefly with a man who took my breath away. It wasn't that he was good-looking; he was a big man, heavy-set, bald and goateed. Big like a football player, muscle-heavy, full of controlled power and light on his feet, like those football players on Dancing with the Stars. What left me breathless was the way he took care of me as his partner.

Many of the men I encounter when dancing tend to fling me about, adding improvised moves that don't quite fit the music, twisting my wrist in an attempt to get me to add extra twirls. Granted, I've become a more conservative dancer as I've gotten older. And I know they don't know their own strength and just want to include me in the fun they are having as they abandon themselves to the music. Still, I sometimes feel a bit mauled by the end of the evening.

However, this man seemed to sense what moves worked for me, reading my body's intentions through his fingertips before even I was aware of them. Completely in control of his own movements, he synchronised our figures perfectly to the phrasing of the music, making sure always that I was in the right place at the right time. He placed my hand just so and led me firmly but gently through the dance. I wanted to take him home with me and never let him go.

Now, I normally don't much like being led, Little Miss Independence that I am. And big men sometimes make me nervous. It's a power thing. But on that dance floor I didn't feel controlled. I felt respected, an equal despite our obvious disparities. It's a subtle distinction—between being taken care of and controlled—but makes all the difference.

I picked up this first book in the series by Lee Child featuring Jack Reacher, and it grabbed me right from the first simple sentence. Having recently left the Army, Reacher is exploring the U.S. he never knew as a military brat when he is arrested for murder in a small, Georgia town. At first only concerned with clearing his name, his own stake in the matter is abruptly raised, and he sets out to untangle the whole corrupt scheme.

With this smart, fast-paced thriller I again felt myself in the hands of an expert, someone who knows his own power, when to restrain it and when to use it. I was going to say “unleash” but that never happens. There's control here always, the author's control reflected in Reacher's actions and reactions, each carefully weighed and dispensed, even as the mounting suspense threatens to drive the story wild. Hard to believe this is a first novel. The plot is complex, and all of the characters, even the minor thugs, vividly drawn. And the conclusion more than satisfying.

I don't usually read thrillers, being overly susceptible: as with this one, I too often find myself turning the last page, and the day somehow gone without my noticing. But this is a series I'll pursue. While I found the body count unnerving, there's no doubt that if I found myself in a life-threatening situation, I would want Jack Reacher by my side. I wonder if he can dance.

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