Reviewed in the United States on July 13, 2018
I'm one of the committed and addicted followers of Jack Reacher and his exploits. Perhaps I need a 10 step program, because after reading all the books in the series, I was almost waiting at the mailbox each day for this pre-release copy to arrive. As usual Lee Child is the master. I'm a normally slow reader to consume and digest whatever I'm reading to commit it to memory, but once again I finished this latest book in just 2 sittings, due to the inconvenience of my job rudely interrupting the flow. We find our hero taking another carefree journey from the northeast to a planned destination of San Diego. He starts his luggage-deficient journey hitch hiking with a driver who owns a construction company until his good samaritan is informed he needs to return to his work crew, so Jack exits onto the road and is on foot where he encounters a crossroad with one sign pointing to a town named Lancona, New Hampshire, which happens to be where his father grew up before joining the marines at 17. Since he has no hard fast deadlines, he decides to make a detour in that direction to learn what he can about his dad, whose funeral he attended 30 years previously. Simultaneously, a second, parallel story line begins. A young couple, both age 25 are driving to New York in an old ,poorly maintained Honda, to sell something they have in a large heavy suitcase. They decide to take the back roads route and due to car trouble wind up staying at a tiny newly renovated motel. The two story lines don't meet until around page 274 of the book. Don't worry, no spoilers here.
Lee Child, as always, had me turning pages as quickly as possible. The story line involving Reacher's side quest to research his father, as it turns out was unfortunately tepid and weak and borderline boring. His usual need to hide after some type of brawl where he incapacitates a large but mismatched foe, in this case is almost artificially tacked on. As if to say, ok, you need to see some jaw crunching from big Jack, so here you go. And that fast its over. The parallel story development of what happens to the young couple is much more engaging and filled with guessing and anticipation, though after a point, that to seemed predictable. They were somewhat engaging, but character development wasn't compelling. For anyone who has never read a Jack Reacher book before, this might not be the best one to start with, because although a few of his defining characteristics are mentioned almost in passing, his inane sense of knowing exactly what time it is in his head, his love of coffee, his near nonexistent travel amenities, including throwing away soiled clothing rather than laundering them, and of course his enormous size and heft. You really wouldn't get a solid sense of who he is or what he is about in this book alone. At all. In the entire plot, there were only two times I stopped and said, oh, this is a clever development or yes, that's a truism of the new super affluent. The more interesting story line involving the young couple is actually lifted from a famous 1924 short story, later made into a movie in 1934. I'm not that old, but was familiar with the plot and saw it coming a mile away in this plot. Lee Child, is a consummate story teller, a raconteur. So he can be forgiven even in a comparatively tepid book with a parallel plot thinly lifted from a famous story line. It still offers compelling reading and you probably won't be able to put it down till the final page.
What makes Jack Reacher so compelling to want to follow his every journey like flashbulb popping paparazzi? Well, what person who has a serious mortgage and car payment and works at a 9 to 5 job with a 10 day allotment a year to cram in a vacation or instead do a home improvement, doesn't wax poetically at his carefree and light weight material existence? Size is scientifically proven to be awe inspiring and attention riveting, as attested to by the fact that the average height of Fortune 500 CEO's s 6' 2". Jack Reacher is 6' 5" and 250 pounds. Do people get excited with any tv show about a CPA no matter how successful? Now how many shows involving police and FBI exist? Reacher is an ex-military MP, so has knowledge of weapons and martial arts to match his enormous physical size. What makes heroes like Sherlock Holmes or even Dr. House so fascinating? It's their brilliant powers of observation and depth of knowledge. Reacher brings this to the table also, missing few details and making on the fly evaluations most people might miss. Finally, in a world so complicated and full of compromised and superficial values, most of us long for simple justice and good. Like the old westerns where there's chaos and oppression in a small town, until the aw shucks good lawman comes into town and takes them all on before riding into the sunset. Jack reacher is all of those things, described by Lee Child in short sentences and intriguing transitions.
Should you buy and read this latest novel? Of course. Is it Lee Child's best book? Arguable not. If you're new to the series, you might want to start with an earlier work. Be forewarned though, as the Borg announces to their hapless victims as they're trapped in a tractor beam in Star Trek, "Resistance is Futile". You will be forever addicted and happily entertained.