Jim Grant is an Englishman who was fired from his job as a television director. He shifted gears, became a writer, utilized the pseudonym of ‘Lee Child’ and has written 22 novels. His protagonist is a 6’5” 250 lb. West Point grad, ex MP Major, named Jack Reacher. Jack travels light, carrying only a toothbrush, a passport and an ATM card (the latter the result of pressure from readers for greater ‘realism’). In an interview with Stephen King (they are strong, mutual admirers) Jim/Lee said that Jack Reacher was created for several reasons, among them the leveraging of the savior/stranger archetype and the author’s own desire to create what he himself could never be—a man who never needs to be afraid.
In THE MIDNIGHT LINE Jack is in a small town in Wisconsin. He is looking in the window of a pawn shop where he sees a West Point ring, a small one. Who would pawn their West Point ring, particularly a woman who had worked so hard to achieve it? In seeking answers to his question Jack travels west, to South Dakota and to Wyoming, where the bulk of the action occurs.
The Reacher novels are rightly praised for their central character, a wonderful creation, but their settings are exceptionally strong, particularly when they are being created by a man from Coventry and Birmingham. Wherever Jack finds himself, from Portland, Maine to the utter boondocks of Wyoming, his creator delineates the setting with an impressive degree of authenticity and accuracy.
In this novel Jack partners with an ex-FBI PI from Chicago; both are looking for the same person. The general subject of the book (mini-SPOILER) is the opioid epidemic (with Jim/Lee and Michael Connelly working the same subject of deep contemporary interest); the theme (what the book is really about) is a little more elusive. Call it duty, honor, or country, the words inscribed on the West Point crest, the tie between brothers/sisters in arms that moves them to aid one another despite the fact that they are actual strangers to one another. Their common experiences and common values eliminate the distance.
This is one of the very best of the Reacher novels, principally because of the personal elements that link the central characters, the beautifully-realized setting and the nature of the justice which undergirds the very nice resolution of a relatively complex plot. There are strong procedural details, comparatively little sex and a soupçon of appropriate and timely violence.
Now we wait for a year for the next installment, YESTERDAY. Anxiously.