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SMACKDOWN

Battle of the macho blockbusters Add to ...

Wherein we break down the latest thrillers from three bestselling authors: Denis Lehane, Lee Child and James Patterson.

THE CONTEXT

Live By Night: A sequel to Lehane’s award-winning The Given Day. The first book followed rising Boston copper Thomas Coughlin in the early 20th century. This one zooms in on his outlaw son Joe more than a decade later.

A Wanted Man: In the 17th Jack Reacher novel (to be reviewed next Saturday), we meet our favourite former military man where the last book left off: thumbing a ride in a snowstorm with a busted-up face.

Zoo: Alex Cross is nowhere to be seen in this stand-alone thriller that holds the dubious distinction of being “co-authored.” (Read: Written by Michael Ledwidge from a James Patterson plot, supervised by Patterson.)

THE HERIOC ANTI-HERO

LBN: Joe Coughlin, a bootlegger and rum runner with a heart of gold and a loaded pistol.

AWM: Jack Reacher, an ex-military cop who doesn’t mind putting justice above the law.

Zoo: Scientist, chimp-whisperer and presumed doomsday crackpot Jackson Oz.

CURRENT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER RANKING

LBN: Unranked

AWM: 2

Zoo: 9

THE BACKDROP

LBN: Mean streets and stinking hot swamplands of 1920s Tampa.

AWM: The open roads, motels and gas stations of modern-day Nowhere, U.S.A.

Zoo: The wilds of the African jungle and the wilds of Washington, D.C.

THE BAD GUYS

LBN: Everyone. In Prohibition-era Florida, the cops are as crooked as the gangsters.

AWM: A couple of hostage-taking gunmen who may or may not have ties to a Middle East terrorist ring.

Zoo: Lions and tigers and bears (oh, yes), along with the rest of the world’s fauna. The lethal monkey business is being caused by a change in the atmosphere.

WHY IT FEELS FAMILIAR

LBN:Boardwalk Empire

AWM:Homeland

Zoo:Animal Planet

HOLLYWOOD TIE-IN

LBN: Warner Brothers has already acquired the rights and tapped Leonardo DiCaprio to play Coughlin. Martin Scorsese as director seems a forgone conclusion.

AWM: Tom Cruise is Jack Reacher in the upcoming eponymous big-screen adaptation. Hard-core fans were furious over the casting. At 6-foot-5, the fictional Reacher is a quiet giant, to Cruise’s pretty-boy imp.

Zoo: None so far, though one can only assume that most of Tinseltown’s four-legged talent (the monkey from Outbreak, the elephant from Operation Dumbo Drop) are taking meetings.

HARD-TO-SWALLOW PLOT POINT

LBN: Joe survives more hard-core beat-downs and near-death scenarios than Wile E. Coyote.

AWM: Reacher communicates with a cocktail waitress hostage using a secret code of blinks and head nods.

Zoo: Oz knows that animals are having violent, totally random and sometimes deadly outbursts and still he asks his girlfriend to check in on his pet chimp? (It does not end well.)

SHOULD YOU BUY IT?

LBN: Yes. Proof that blockbuster action and brilliant writing can co-exist.

AWM: Unless you’re a Reacher junkie, wait for the paperback.

Zoo: Unless you’re in need of a serious time waster, wait for the inevitable, equally bad action flick starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Morgan Freeman.

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