When Jack Reacher hitches a ride into a remote Nebraskan town, he’s expecting to stay for one night. But after hearing about the Duncans, a trio of men who rule the county with fear and abuse, Reacher is unable to walk away. With the help of a few scared farmers, he methodically and mercilessly takes out Cornhusker football players, visiting thugs from Las Vegas and the Duncans, one by one. Worth Dying For is a deep look at the evil hidden between cornstalks, between farms – even between neighbors.
Plot Overview: Justice, Murder and the Midwest
Jack Reacher is a man of action, a man of morals, a man of few words. He hears about a problem, and he cuts it down to the barest bones, determining what is essential, what is not; what is life-threatening, what is not; who deserves punishment and who deserves justice. His moral code is so strong, so innate that despite what other goals or tasks lie before him, he is compelled to right a wrong, even if it puts his own life and agenda in jeopardy.
When Reacher stumbles upon the Apollo Motel, a space-age throwback to the 1960s, he thinks he’s found a place – a somewhat odd place, but a place nonetheless – to rest his head for the night. Unfortunately, he never does get the chance to sleep for more than a few hours before his internal hero alarm clock starts beeping.
After accompanying the local doctor, an alcoholic, to tend Eleanor Duncan, a woman who is routinely abused by her husband, Reacher seeks out the offending spouse to deliver his own justice: a mean punch to the face. This one act of retribution, the likes of which has never been seen by the put-upon and miserable inhabitants of the Nebraskan farming community, spurs the Duncan brothers to violently end the “mysterious stranger’s” life.
While Reacher easily fends off one corn-fed heavy after another, the Duncans are trying to salvage their business. They are the bottom link in a long series that transports unknown and valuable cargo. When one shipment arrives late, the Duncans decide to blame Reacher. The other links in the chain send their fighters to take out “the stranger,” though they grossly underestimate his abilities. And with Reacher coming closer to discovering the truth of the cargo, the Duncans and their allies will waste no time in trying to make him – and each other – disappear.
Criticisms and Compliments
Atlhough Lee Child has been writing about Jack Reacher and his heroics for years, he continues to make Reacher an admirable, interesting character. Reacher’s morals are never dull, his actions are never repetitive, his fighting skills and logic never stagnate. He is an evolving character, one whose desire for justice remains consistent and firm. But what really make Jack Reacher and Worth Dying For excellent are Lee Child’s storytelling skills. His style, which tends to echo Hemingway’s use of stark, simple sentences, is unique and minimal. Every word has a purpose, and every chapter is cleanly pieced together, like a small story in itself. Child is one of today’s best fiction writers.
While Worth Dying For is a must read, it does leave a few blanks unfilled. As the follow up to 61 Hours, Worth Dying For picks up moments after 61 Hours ends. Child makes no effort to summarize the events of the previous novel, which some readers will appreciate. For readers who have not enjoyed 61 Hours, however, there are some questions as to how and why Reacher is heading to Virginia. Child makes one reference to 61 Hours in order to explain Reacher’s injuries, but otherwise he remains in the present, writing only of the now. Still, Worth Dying For is a book worth reading – immediately.
- Child, Lee. Worth Dying For: A Jack Reacher Novel. Dell, 2011 ISBN 9780440246299