Tag Archives: Jack Reacher

Personal by Lee Child

Reacher is back…and this time it’s personal! (said in my best movie trailer guy voice). It’s also the name of the book, Personal, Lee Child’s nineteenth and newest Jack Reacher thriller. In this one, faces from Reacher’s past come back to haunt him. One is a deadly sniper he busted when he was a military police officer and who has been just released from prison, hungry for revenge. The other appears in the form of a young CIA officer who reminds Reacher of an army colleague whose death he feels responsible for. Ghosts of the past all around, Reacher lends his assistance to a CIA investigation regarding a potential assassination attempt at the G8 summit, an investigation that takes him from the back woods of rural America to the streets of Paris and London. This is convenient because Reacher needed to get his passport renewed anyway…

As usual, Child doesn’t fail to please with Personal. It’s got everything you expect from a Reacher novel: a little sleuthing, some unexpected violence and a hero who likes to make his own rules. And Reacher comes back with some good tough guy one-liners. After killing a scumbag thug in merry old England, Reacher defends his act to CIA Agent Casey Nice, telling her he was “too stupid to live.” Nice says, “Stupidity isn’t a capital crime. And there’s no death penalty here, anyway,” to which Reacher replies, “There is now.”

This isn’t to say that Personal is a masterpiece or anything. The plot is pretty goofy and Reacher, as he is wont to do, just sort of blunders through the investigation, accenting his copious use of unannounced violence with the occasional flash of plot-saving brilliance. In other words, it’s a Reacher novel. I will say, though, that I was disappointed that Reacher mistakenly says that “force…is the product of mass times velocity squared,” which is incorrect. Force equal mass times acceleration. I would have thought that Reacher, being a pretty sharp fellow, would have known this. Maybe he just got confused in the moment with kinetic energy, which is one-half of mass times velocity squared. After all, he was kicking in a door at the time. Whatever.

Personal is a fun, quick read and sates my Reacher fix. Reacher fans will enjoy.

★★★✩✩

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The Enemy (Jack Reacher #8) by Lee Child

It’s New Year’s Eve, just on the cusp of a new decade, 1990, and military police officer Major Jack Reacher has just arrived at his new command after being inexplicably reassigned. He doesn’t have time to enjoy rolling in the new year though because before he’s even settled he gets a call from the local cops. A general has been found dead in a cheap motel room, apparently of a heart attack. The situation seems hinky to Reacher, but what can you do? Even general officers might have liaisons in cheap hotel rooms. At least he went out with a bang. But when the general’s wife is found murdered in her home and other seemingly unrelated murders start occurring, Reacher knows something is dirty. With the help of a young, female MP lieutenant, Reacher uncovers a plot that extends into the highest ranks of army hierarchy.

The Enemy is Lee Child’s eighth Jack Reacher book and now that I’ve read it I’m done with the entire run of novels until Personal comes out in September. I guess I’ll have to read some of the short stories to tide me over. Anyway, I would have preferred to have completed the run of novels on a high note since I really enjoy these Jack Reacher books in general, but The Enemy, while starting off promisingly, managed to be one of the weaker novels in the series.

As mentioned in the synopsis above, The Enemy is one of those Reacher novels that go back to his army days and it’s written in a first person perspective. It’s always kind of fun to see what Reacher was like in the old days, but as I have mentioned before in other reviews, Child does not write convincingly about the U.S. Army. I guess it doesn’t really matter, but a lot of it comes across as kind of goofy, like driving around in humveess all the time rather than a GSA vehicle (oh, and humvees don’t have a “big red start button”; it’s a switch). It’s like if you’re a medical professional and you’re watching some TV show where the doc stabs the patient in the heart with a giant syringe of atropine and says “Live, dammit!” and you’re like, “Noooo…come on.” It’s like that. But I guess I don’t mind the inaccuracies too much. I just kind of correct things in my mind as I read.

But even though Reacher has made a career of the military, with all the rules and regulations it’s not his best environment. Reacher doesn’t do rules and I like him best as a wandering loner. And the plot of The Enemy didn’t really capitalize on Reacher’s particular talent for causing all kinds of physical mayhem and violence. Of course we know that Reacher’s a pretty clever fellow, but let’s be honest. We all like to see him bust some heads. There is little head busting in The Enemy. The plot mostly involves Reacher and Summer (the female MP lieutenant) checking things out and following up leads. That, in itself, is okay, but the mystery they’re solving is just so convoluted and far-fetched that it’s a little preposterous.

There are, however, some good moments, like when a hungry Reacher urges Lt. Summer to ask a nun if she’s going to finish her in-flight meal, or Reacher’s funny (but juvenile) way of dispensing justice to the main bad guy in the end. The Enemy also incorporates a significant event in Reacher’s life, the death of his mother by cancer and he and his brother Joe must come to terms with that.

The verdict: ★★★✩✩ (3/5 stars). The Enemy is not the strongest Jack Reacher book, but is a serviceable mystery. Though it’s light on action and the coherency of the plot is questionable, Reacher’s humanity is highlighted as he deals with the death of his mother and this part for me made up for the rest of the novel’s shortcomings.

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Jack Reacher gets Personal in September

I’m reading Charlie Huston’s Already Dead right now. I’m about halfway through, so no review this week. I like it so far. It’s not a long book, but I’m taking my time with it.

But yesterday I learned that the next Jack Reacher book, to be entitled Personal, comes out in September!

I guess it’s not really new news. I think it was announced in January. Nor is it unexpected, either, I guess; Child’s been pretty steady with a book a year. But still, it’s good news. I don’t know why I didn’t know about it sooner. Here’s the synopsis from the official website:

Jack Reacher walks alone. Once a go-to hard man in the US military police, now he’s a drifter of no fixed abode. But the army tracks him down. Because someone has taken a long-range shot at the French president.

Only one man could have done it. And Reacher is the one man who can find him.

This new heartstopping, nailbiting book in Lee Child’s number-one bestselling series takes Reacher across the Atlantic to Paris – and then to London. The stakes have never been higher – because this time, it’s personal.

I was previously a little bummed because, aside from the short stories, I only have The Enemy left to read and then I’d be all out of Reacher. No Reacher to reach for. But now I can look forward to Personal. I know it’s not high-lit, but these Jack Reacher books are my mac ‘n’ cheese; they make me happy. When I start to feel bad about my life (…gotta mow the damn lawn again, grumble grumble…property taxes are due, grumble grumble…toilet’s acting up again, grumble, grumble…) I can read about the adventures of an oversize homeless man with a penchant for head butting fools. So I guess now I can get around to reading The Enemy soon.

Cool!

Oh, hey…I almost forgot to mention, it’s 3.14. Happy pi day, you nerds (yeah, I’m a nerd, too).

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Jack Reacher #18: Never Go Back by Lee Child


(Delacorte Press, 2013)

In Lee Child’s eighteenth Jack Reacher adventure, Reacher finally makes his way to the headquarters of his old army command, the 110th MP special investigations unit in Washington D.C., where he hopes to meet its current commander, Major Susan Turner (whom he had “met” by phone in previous episodes. He liked the sound of her voice, wanted to see what she was like in person, so he travels across the US to meet her. Okay, a little weird, but that’s Reacher). When he arrives, however, he finds things are entirely contrary to his expectations: Major Turner has been arrested for treason and is in the stockade, the 110th is now commanded by an asshole lieutenant colonel named Morgan and Reacher has been recalled back into service!

Reacher, being an honorably discharged commissioned officer, is still obligated to to return to active duty in accordance with the needs of the Army, and, as it turns out, a military warrant has been placed for the arrest of Major Jack (none) Reacher. Reacher’s inadvertent arrival at the 110th gives Morgan and the army a chance to recall him to active duty and try him under the Uniform Code of Military justice (I know, it doesn’t quite work that way, but bear with me here). The charges? Murder, for one thing. Seems Reacher, in an old investigation, had dealings with a two-bit thug who later died from Reacher’s supposed police brutality. The second charge? Being a deadbeat dad. Reacher learns that he’s got a kid, a fourteen year old girl, from an overseas relationship that he doesn’t even remember. Now you can’t tell me all that isn’t going to make your day interesting.

Reacher, true to form, isn’t going to take this sitting down. He realizes that all this can’t be coincidental to his arrival and concludes that it was all a ruse to scare him away, back to his anonymous, solo wanderings where he will never be a bother to anyone again. The questions are, who is behind it and what are they hiding? As Reacher and Turner escape custody and go on the lam, they uncover a conspiracy within the army and Reacher is faced with the unforeseen prospect of being a father to a teenage girl.

After reading the first Reacher title, Killing Floor, I’ve pretty much been hooked. It’s not that the Reacher series is very realistic or smart. They’re not. Jack Reacher is a six-foot-five, two-hundred-and-fifty pound ex-military police officer turned hobo who wanders the nation righting wrongs, putting assholes in there places and solving unnecessarily complex and far-fetched mysteries with aplomb, all the while having a keen radar for smart, capable and attractive women who, more often than not, are cops themselves and, more often than not, want to get it on with Jack’s “reacher.” So, no, the Reacher novels are not smart. They’re, as Zwolf says over in The Mighty Blow Hole, the literary equivalent of a BDAM, or “Big Dumb Action Movie.” But like Zwolf, I have an appreciation for this sort of thing and, after eighteen novels, I find that Lee Child (who has chosen an awesome name for his nom de plume, by the way) does some things extremely well.

For one, Child knows pacing. In a former life as Jim Grant, he worked in British television as a director and writer for nearly two decades, so I would expect that he would have learned a thing or two about a story’s pacing. The Reacher novels, despite their unlikely premises, are nevertheless very well plotted and paced.

I also like Child’s prose a lot, even though I realize it bugs some people. In the earlier novels I tend to agree that the “hard boiled” staccato style seemed to be a little contrived, but since then Child’s prose has grown and he has developed his own very practical, fast-moving and drily humorous style. Not to mention a pedantry and a fondness for triviality that I find amusing, like in this example from Never Go Back:

“Same for me,” Reacher said. “And coffee.”

“Yes, sir.” And immediately the guy turned away and got to work with a wedge of new lard and a blade, planing the metal surface, smoothing it, three feet out and three feet back, and six feet side to side. Which made him a griddle man at heart. In Reacher’s experience such guys were either griddle men or owners, but never really both. A griddle man’s first instinct was to tend the metal, working it until it was glassy down to a molecular level, so slick it would make Teflon feel like sandpaper. Whereas an owner’s first instinct would have been to bring the coffee. Because the first cup of coffee seals the deal. A customer isn’t committed until he has consumed something. He can still get up and walk away, if he’s dissatisfied with the wait, or if he remembers an urgent appointment. But not if he’s already started in on his first cup of coffee. Because then he would have to throw some money, and who really knows what a cup of diner coffee costs? Fifty cents? A dollar? Two dollars?

And who really cares? Reacher does, that’s who. I find this rather nerdy attention to detail kind of funny.

And this leads me to another thing that I think Child does very well, which is Reacher’s characterization. Of course, there is nothing really original about Reacher’s basic premise (BDAM), but after eighteen novels Reacher gives me the impression that he’s kind of a geek. A gigantic geek that will remorselessly head butt you if you’re a jerk, but still a geek, with a geek’s penchant for facts, figures, details and trivia. Also, rather refreshing, is that Reacher rarely gets sad or upset or angry and is generally a pretty happy fellow, a nice change from the angst-ridden antiheroes that are not uncommon in genre fiction. And Reacher engages in some pretty good, if peculiar, tough-guy talk (also from Never Go Back):

Reacher said, “You ever bought an electrical appliance?”
“What’s that got to do with anything?”
“I saw one once, in a store. It had a yellow label on the back. It said if you messed with it you run the risk of death or serious injury.”
“So?”
“Pretend I’ve got the same kind of label.”

I would be remiss if I failed to harp, once again, on the choice of actors to play Jack Reacher in the live-action film Jack Reacher, an adaptation of the ninth Reacher novel One Shot. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but that’s nothing against the film. I’m not very prompt when it comes to movie releases in general. Still, I sort of think that adapting One Shot as the first Reacher film is sort of strange. Stranger yet, however, is casting Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher when, to my mind, Dolph Lundgren is the obvious choice and I’ve always imagined Lundgren as Reacher from day one. I mean, for a moment indulge in this unscientific experiment. Which photo says “Reacher” to you more, Photo ‘A’:

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or Photo ‘B’:

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Granted, the photo of Tom Cruise here is not one from his role as Reacher. It’s just him being himself. But I don’t think that changes anything. And I don’t have anything against Tom Cruise’s acting, but I just can’t see him as Reacher. I will see the film someday. Who knows? Maybe I’ll like it. I’ve heard it’s not bad. At any rate, I haven’t even begun to talk about Never Go Back yet, so I guess I’d better get to it.

After last year’s disappointing A Wanted Man, Child is in good form with Never Go Back, providing almost everything Reacher fans expect: a little bit of violence, a little bit of sex, an overly obscure, unnecessarily complex mystery that doesn’t make a lot of sense and Reacher giving what fo’ to the bad guys. I just take for granted that the mystery part is going to be a little goofy and I don’t let the details get to me. As usual, the pacing is great and a lot of fun as Reacher and Turner go on the run to clear their names. I think the most interesting part of Never Go Back for me was wondering if Reacher actually had a kid.

There are a few negatives for me regarding Never Go Back. Namely, the bad guys were not as downright morally repellent as some of Child’s previous villains, and the final resolution was somewhat anticlimactic in my opinion. Nevertheless, I enjoyed Never Go Back very much and am glad to see that Child isn’t getting complacent with the series.

All in all, Never Go Back gets a fat thumbs up from me.

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Jack Reacher #17: A Wanted Man by Lee Child


(Delacorte Press, 2012)

Four people in a car, hoping to make Chicago by morning. One man driving, eyes on the road. Another man next to him, telling stories that don’t add up. A woman in the back, silent and worried. And next to her, a huge man with a broken nose, hitching a ride east to Virginia.

An hour behind them, a man lies stabbed to death in an old pumping station. He was seen going in with two others, but he never came out. He has been executed, the knife work professional, the killers vanished. Within minutes, the police are notified. Within hours, the FBI descends, laying claim to the victim without ever saying who he was or why he was there.

All Reacher wanted was a ride to Virginia. All he did was stick out his thumb. But he soon discovers he has hitched more than a ride. He has tied himself to a massive conspiracy that makes him a threat—to both sides at once.

(I’m reading Lee Child’s eighteenth Jack Reacher installment Never Go Back right now and I’m happy to say that I’m enjoying it much more than last year’s rather tepid A Wanted Man. I’ll be reviewing the new one soon, but for now, here are my thoughts on A Wanted Man, first posted at GR on Mar. 31, 2013.)

If a six-foot-five, two-hundred and fifty pound hobo with a busted nose manages to hitch a ride with strangers at night you can probably make a safe bet that something is amiss. Turns out there is more to his new traveling companions than meets the eye and Jack Reacher finds himself on a car ride through the midwest that’s as thrilling as…well, a car ride through the midwest.

I’m a fan of the Reacher series. While these novels might not be masterpieces of the genre, they are fun and reliable. You pretty much know what you’re going to get. Actually, they make me happy. The way a pizza makes me happy. Or a cheeseburger and fries. This one did not make me happy. This was a pizza with pineapple on it. A cheeseburger and fries left to harden in its own fat. I’ll still eat it, but it’s a little sad.

I don’t know if Child is getting tired of writing for Reacher or what, but he was clearly not in good form this time. I honestly think that Child’s writing at times approaches the sublime in its clunkiness. He’s not trying to be literary. His prose is as subtle as walking into a door, but it is appropriate for the stories he tells and I find his disdain for pretense refreshing. But this time I think Lee Child was phoning it in.

Sure, we get the usual Reacherisms. We get the usual taciturnity, the geeky obsession with trivia and numbers, the smart mouth to the bad guys and the requisite ultraviolent retribution at the end. Reacher goes shopping for new clothes at the dollar store like in every other book. He sees injustice, like in every other book, and a mystery and to sate his curiosity takes extreme and unauthorized measures to set things right. This book has the required elements. But ultimately it was soulless. It was checking the box. Going through the motions. Most of the dialogue was basically reacher thinking aloud with others about what might be going on. And driving. A lot of driving. Here and there, back and forth. Check on this, check on that, drive drive drive.

The conclusion was appropriately violent with Reacher taking on the enemy against all odds, but so what? The bad guy(s) were amorphous, relatively anonymous. Unlike previous installments that often had bad guys that were worthy of our hate, the bad guys here were “terrorists” and some middle-management types. Basically faceless. By the time it got to that point I just wanted to end it already.

Really, I don’t know what Child was thinking. Maybe he thought he could coast a little, what with a movie coming out and Tom Cruise playing Jack Reacher. I can’t blame Child for letting Tom Cruise play Reacher. If Cruise is in a movie it for sure is going to get made. The road to hell is paved with movies that were sold but never made. So in that sense Child’s decision is as practical as his prose and probably a good one.

But still (and this makes no logical sense) I can’t help but feel that if Dolph Lundgren was playing Jack Reacher this novel may have been better. Lundgren is physically perfect for the role. He’s actually not a bad actor, but he’s not as popular as Cruise. I get the feeling that if this were the case then maybe Child would not have set the “Cruise” control on this novel. Maybe he would have felt more of a hunger to make this Reacher novel, you know, kinda good.

But, Reacher and Mr. Child, I have not given up on you. I know they cannot all be gems. I am understanding. Considering the countless hours of mindless escapist enjoyment you have provided me I am still, indeed, in your debt. I am still a “Reacher Creature.”

But don’t let it happen again. Reacher spoke of a motto in one of the books: Never forgive. Never forget.

Just sayin’.

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