Pop thrills

A romp through this year's bumper crop of trash lit

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tredmond@sfbg.com

LIT So much trash lit, so little summer left. It hasn't been the greatest of years for beach and backyard reading (seriously, more trash than lit), but we struggle on. Some selections:

THE AFFAIR

By Lee Child

Delacourte Press

405 pp, hardcover $28

Jack Reacher is one of the best action characters of our time, up there with Spenser and Travis McGee.

Child came up with a winner, a former military cop who wanders the world like Kwai Chang Caine, doing good work, sometimes reluctantly, with superior fighting skills that make him a true badass.

The Affair is sort of a prequel, and takes us back to Reacher's army days. It's absolutely formulaic, completely predictable, just like all the other Reacher books — but so well executed that it's still a beautifully guilty pleasure.

There's a murder that puts Reacher in danger, a gang of thugs who get their butts kicked, a hot woman in law enforcement with whom Reacher has what we all know will be a short-lived affair ... and plenty of sharp dialogue the keeps the pages turning.

With all the pablum out there, it was nice to sit down and read the work of a master who is still in his prime.

STOLEN PREY

By John Sandford

G.P. Putnam's Sons

402 pp, hardcover $27.95

Put this one up there with The Affair. If you love Lucas Davenport and his world of twisted murder shit in and around the Twin Cities, then Stolen Prey works fine.

Mexican drug gangs seem to be the Most Evil Fuckers In The World this summer, and in Stolen Prey, they're particularly horrible, doing a stomach-turning murder that takes place in a nice upper-middle class town. The dead family appears to have no ties to any type of criminal activity — but ah, there is much more here.

Again, nothing radically new (except a suprising ending involving Davenport's adopted daughter, Letty, who apparently has some of the step-old-man in her), but a fine read for a sunny afternoon.

THE LITIGATORS

By John Grisham

Dell Paperback

488 pp, paper $9.99

Grishman practically invented the modern lawyer novel, and most of his protagonists are brilliant (if tormented) legal advocates who fight valiantly against corporate crime.

It was getting old.

This time around, there's plenty of evil corporation (big pharma) — but the lawyers are bumbling idiots, worthless ambulance chasers who've stumbled into something they're mind-bendingly unqualified to handle. Drunk lawyers, dumb lawyers, lawyers behaving badly ... it's a grand and glorious testament to the noble profession. And it moves right along.

DON'T BLINK

By James Patterson and Howard Roughan

Hachette

365 pp, paper $9.99

Patterson has written so many books I don't think even he can keep track. The Alex Cross series is among the modern classics in crime lit. His current M.O.: Find co-writers who can do some of the heavy lifting while he polishes. At least, that's how much of his stuff reads. And this one, sad to say, is a snooze.

Even in his collaborations, Patterson normally manages to keep things lively. The plots are good, the characters decent, and there's no shortage of action. He's into seriously depraved, psychotic villains and seriously evil enemies. Never a dull moment — mostly.

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