….There were photographs in the middle of the book. All except one were bland snapshots tracing Sansom's life from the age of three months to the present day. They were the kind of things that I imagine most guys could dig out of a shoebox in the back of a closet. Parents, childhood, schooldays, his service years, his bride-to-be, their kids, business portraits. Normal stuff, probably interchangeable with the pictures in all the other candidate biographies.
But the photograph that was different was bizarre.
The photograph that was different was a news picture I had seen before. It was of an American politician called Donald Rumsfeld, in Baghdad, shaking hands with Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi dictator, back in 1983. Donald Rumsfeld had twice been Secretary of Defense, but at the time of the picture had been a special presidential envoy for Ronald Reagan. He had gone to Baghdad to kiss Saddam's ass and pat him on the back and give him a pair of solid gold spurs as a gift and a symbol of America's everlasting gratitude. Eight years later we had been kicking Saddam's ass, not kissing it. Fifteen years after that, we killed him. Sansom had captioned the picture Sometimes our friends become our enemies, and sometimes our enemies become our friends. Political commentary; I supposed. Or a business homily, although I could find no mention of the actual episode in the text itself….
Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child (2009).
Gone Tomorrow is one of the best detective puzzles Lee Child has given us in his Jack Reacher series of thrillers. It is filled with misdirecting clues and red herrings. In the end, they all add up. Reverse-engineering the plot, the mystery reader is staggered by the sheer inventiveness Child has employed for our bafflement.
The usual Reacher novel elements are here. A young, determined female NYPD detective named Theresa Lee. An old hand named Winchester who starts out looking like a foe and ends up as a careful ally.
This is not a modestly scaled rural tale like Make Me or The Midnight Line. It is a big, urban wallop of action with multiple cop and national security agencies, all waiving the Patriot Act and asking questions later. In fact, one goon squad agency shoots Reacher with gorilla tranquilizer not once, but twice.
Reacher's nemesis at first seems to be a North Carolina senatorial candidate, but once the true enemy reveals itself, the effect is stunning. It is Child's greatest piece of misdirection, and deserves a slow, professional round of applause.
21 April 2018