[Amazon Link]

This is book number three in Lee Child's series about Jack Reacher, an ex-MP who keeps falling into the middle of nefarious schemes masterminded by murderous psychopaths. You know, the sort of thing that happens to you and me all the time.

As the book opens, Reacher is down in Key West, digging swimming pools by day, and being a bouncer at a strip club by night. A private eye shows up looking for him; Reacher successfully deflects his attention. But then two thugs do the same. And then the PI winds up dead, apparently at the hand of the thugs.

What's going on? Reacher has to find out, so it's back to the mainland for him. He quickly meets up with Jodie, a woman from his past, and discovers that she's in pretty serious trouble herself. Behind it all is the previously-mentioned psychopath: Victor Hobie, ostensibly a lender-of-last-resort to businesses on the brink of financial failure. He's badly disfigured, has a hook where his hand used to be, and views murder and torture as a couple perks of his position. He and his henchmen are ruthless and resourceful, and (of course) put Reacher and Jodie in near-continuous peril.

Reacher is not simply skilled in fisticuffs and gunplay, he's a pretty good detective too. And Lee Child is not just a manly-man action writer, but has serious skills in drawing characters, location, and mood.

Last Modified 2012-10-02 2:21 PM EST

Temple Grandin

stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Originally a made-for-HBO movie, Temple Grandin scored 7 Emmy awards, and was nominated for 8 others. Nevertheless, it's good! (The 8.4 IMDB rating is good enough to put it into IMDB's Top 250 movies of all time, but they don't put made-for-TV movies in there.)

So it's not just another disease-of-the-month flick. It's the as-far-as-I-know true story of autistic Temple Grandin. It describes her triumph against formidable odds: not only her autism, but also prejudice against her disability and gender. (It doesn't help that her chosen field, animal husbandry, isn't exactly a hotbed of tolerance and sensitivity.) Fortunately, she has some formidable allies too, primarily her aunt (Catherine O'Hara), her mom (Julia Ormond), and an understanding science teacher (David Strathairn).

The movie steers clear of preachiness and sentimentality. It also has some very funny scenes. (Don't blink or you'll miss Temple's reaction when she first hears the term "animal husbandry.") Claire Danes is very good in her role as Temple; this will come as no surprise to those of us who saw her subtle performance in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

If I had one complaint, it would be that they hammered on that opening-door metaphor a trifle overmuch. If you watch it, you'll see what I mean.

Last Modified 2012-10-02 2:20 PM EST