09/23/2011 12:39 pm ET Updated Nov 23, 2011

Woman on a Mission: Discovering The Affair by Lee Child

I came late to the Jack Reacher thrillers written by Lee Child. I have heard so much about Reacher and Child but with so many -- fifteen to choose from -- I didn't know where to start. Lee Child to the rescue: he just made it easy for me, with the publication of his sixteenth, titled The Affair.

The inside blurb reads "Everything starts somewhere..." and the Reacher story starts here. But as I soon realized, such a simple sentence as this is one of Child's trademarks: it wallows in the mind a bit, and then takes on a twisted meaning. (Example: "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.") After all, there is a short story by Child titled Second Son about the child Jack Reacher: does everything start there? After reading The Affair, I will be reading the short story to find out, because I am now a Reacher junkie and a Child fan. I am a woman on a mission. Funny that, because The Affair has a couple women on missions of their own -- and many bad guys out to stop them.

The Affair is set way back in 1997 and Jack Reacher is still in the Army -- just barely. Sent on a career-suicide assignment to investigate the murder of a young woman near a military base whose crack troops are involved in a secret Balkan mission -- there are just so many variables to the assignment and so many things that could go wrong. Jack expects the worst, prepares for every contingency, and relies on his quick wits, fighting skills, and few reliable friends to solve the crime, save the army's ass, and have really great sex. Basically, all at the same time.

How does this man do it? By not getting bogged down in details like laundry or love? His unique attitude towards life's questions helps, but his training and brain and deep sense of right and wrong (and his certainty that killing the bad guys straight out is the best solution), along with his good looks, healthy appetite (cheeseburgers, pie, and sex), and phenomenal stamina all add up to a man who cannot be stopped. At least, I am counting on him not being stopped as I begin my journey into the books of Child and the mind of Reacher.

The Affair is a thrilling book, a page-turner until the very end. It is rife with testosterone and riddles, laden with beautiful women and bad men, and although brutal, cynical, and provoking, it is a richly satisfying good read.

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