Review: A Wanted Man – Lee Child

4 of 5 stars

Series: Jack Reacher 17

My version: Paperback
Fiction Thriller
Bantam Books
2012
Bought

When you’re as big and rough as Jack Reacher – and you have a badly set, freshly busted nose – it isn’t easy to hitch a ride. At last, he’s picked up by three strangers – two men and a woman.

Within minutes it becomes clear they’re lying about everything – and there’s a police roadblock ahead. There has been an incident, and the cops are looking for the bad guys…

Will they get through because the three are innocent? Or because they are now four? is Reacher just a decoy?

A very good, twisty, slowly unravelling tale, involving Reacher being Reacher and using his grey matter as only Reacher can. There are several levels of threat here and it would be nice sometimes, if Reacher did admit something like ‘I’m shit-scared I’ve bitten off more than I can chew here!” But that’s probably never going to happen, not if Lee Child wants his books to keep on selling, that is. Which is a kind of point. Do we buy it because we know what’s going to happen, and we’re safe and secure in the knowlege we’re going to get our money’s worth? Whay am I reading these books? In the hope that Reacher gets looked at a bit more closely by Lee Child? Maybe. Maybe I too like to lean back and know that no matter the problem, Reacher can fight his way out of it. That’s going to come to an end at some point, people – me – are going to want something more, or even something different. Reacher will have served his purpose – and that isn’t just an excuse for Lee Child to write in characters named after Aston Villa managers and ex-footballers – and the next thing will come along. One a year is going to be a strain on Lee Child and us.  Not that he should worry. And I won’t have to worry that Reacher hasn’t changed his underwear in days.

What is also good about books like this, is that you really could jump in anywhere in the series and get the maximum out of the book. This one is set in the here and the now, others are back when Reacher was in the army, so whilst here there is the carry over from the last nook, of the broken and self-set nose, each book is pretty much self-contained. I’m reading them all in sequence, but I can see that I could have started anywhere and not lost any of the effect. For that, Lee Child also deserves praise. Not an easy trick to pull off I’d imagine.

You can buy A Wanted Man at Booksplea.se

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Review: The Affair – Lee Child

4 of 5 stars

Series: Jack Reacher 16

My version: Paperback
Fiction Thriller
Bantam Books
2011
Bought

March 1997. A woman has her throat cut behind a bar in Mississippi. Just down the road is a big army base. Is the murderer a local guy – or is he a soldier?

Jack Reacher, still a major in the military police, is sent in undercover. The county sheriff is a former U.S. Marine – and a stunningly beautiful woman. Her investigation is going nowhere. Is the Pentagon stonewalling her? Or doesn’t she really want to find the killer?

Set just six months before the opening of Killing Floor, The Affair marks a turning point in Reacher’s life. If he does what the army wants, will he be able to live with himself? And if he doesn’t, will the Army be able to live with him?

Well, maybe most noticeable for Reacher getting a bit. As I’ve read up to about half way through the latest, I can say it’s the start of a hot streak for the Reach. Lucky the ‘Marine‘ in question, is a woman, really. Anyway, we’ve got a very long way back, in terms of Reacher’s time-line. In relation to where he is now, in 2017, that is. If he were real…well, you get the picture. This is as the blurb says, set just before the start of the post-Army Reacher. Thing is, while the back of the book trumpets ‘the story of how Reacher became Reacher,’ it doesn’t. It just shows that Reacher always has been Reacher. The Reacher out of the Army, isn’t a whole lot different from Reacher the MP in the Army.

The Affair also settles us well into the formula of not very much happening for the first half of the book, that has a whole lot of relevance to the solving of the case later on. You are, of course, on the lookout for clues that could solve it, but then, so is Reacher. He’s not ahead of us at any point that I could see. And the breakthrough isn’t wholly dependent on Reacher being Reacher either. I’d love to be completely flat-footed by a deduction, or a link made, or a surprise. That’s what’s missing really.

However, it’s a pretty good one all in all. I could have suggested a couple of ways to have made it really spring some surprises, were I his editor, but I was pretty happy with all the build-up and the characters and the execution. If there’s one thing to be said about Lee Child and Reacher, they don’t let you down.

You can buy The Affair from Booksplea.se

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Review: Worth Dying For – Lee Child

4 of 5 stars

Series: Jack Reacher 15

My version: Paperback
Fiction Thriller
Bantam Books
2010
Bought

There’s deadly trouble in the wilds of Nebraska.

…and Reacher walks right into it. He falls foul of the Duncans, a local clan that has terrified an entire county into submission. But it’s the unsolved case of a missing eight-year-old girl, already decades-old, that Reacher can’t let go.

Reacher – bruised and battered – should have just kept on going. But for Reacher, that was impossible.

What, in this fearful rural county, would be worth dying for?

Well, yes, we’re once again (again) in Nowhere, USA. Where, as I’ve said many times before, anything goes. On both sides of the law. Great for an author to have his characters and plot do just about anything he wants, with out that pesky realism poking its head in.

And, everywhere’s all covered in snow. Again. I think. I say ‘I think’ because it’s a bit hard to remember this one. Not that it was that bad, it was entertaining enough, but it is another couple of yards of Reacher being Reacher and getting all wound up about nothing much. Though the story of the missing child is a good invention on Lee Child’s part, and it even has Reacher going – well at least mentally – weak at the knees. The last few books have had Reacher wandering through Trump country. And though these books are written before 2016, more than one character will have seeing why they elected the shaved Orang-Utan.

I don’t go with the cover talk of “impossible to start without finishing,” I’m afraid, it wasn’t that compulsive. Not as over drawn-out as some, but he really could shave (at least) a hundred pages off this, and many of the others, and have a much tighter story and a more thrilling book. Good, not great.

You can buy Worth Dying For from Booksplea.se

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Review: 61 Hours – Lee Child

4 of 5 stars

Series: Jack Reacher 14

My version: Paperback
Fiction Thriller
Bantam Books
2010
Bought

Hour sixty-one
Icy winter in South Dakota.
A bus skids and crashes in a gathering storm. On the back seat: Jack Reacher, hitching a ride to nowhere.

Hour thirty one
One brave woman is standing up for justice.
If she’s going to live to testify, she’ll need help from a man like Reacher. Because there’s a killer coming for her.

Hour zero
Has Reacher finally met his match?
He doesn’t want to put the world to rights. H just doesn’t like people who put it to wrongs.

Yeah, it probably seemed a good idea on paper (ho-ho!), doing the story as a constant countdown to – something. An event. But…it had better be spectacular, amazing, amazingly, earth-shatteringly amazing when you get to zero hour, don’t you think? Not, “erm, hang on, was that what we were waiting for?”

Then you start thinking – does Jack Reacher ever change his underwear?! Ever? He has no bags, no luggage at all, that is mentioned several times each book. He does (in some of the books after this one) mention buying underwear, specifically. Dumping his old stuff in the trash can, as you know. But here – phew! And he’s stuck somewhere in the snow! No way out. And he’s a guest in someone’s house part the time – double phew!! No one says anything though. Maybe they don’t dare: “Oi! Reacher! You’re rather ripe this morning, don’t you think?” And that’s the last we hear of them.

The rigid adherence to a mechanical style, is getting a bit wearing. It may well be a style he has found works for him, as a writer I mean, certainly it works for him as a seller of books. Maybe it makes knocking off a Reacher book every year a whole lot less of a chore. Or maybe it’s a style that covers his limits as a writer. Like the whole thing could be fed into a computer, and a button pressed. Anyway, it needs looking at.

Otherwise, it’s good, not great. Sort of in the middle.

You can buy 61 Hours at Booksplea.se

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Review: Gone Tomorrow – Lee Child

4 of 5 stars

Series: Jack Reacher 12

My version: Paperback
Fiction Crime, thriller
Bantam Books
2009
Bought

Suicide bombers are easy to spot.

They give out all kinds of tell-tale signs. Mostly because they are nervous. By definition they are al first-timers…

There are twelve things to look for.

New York City subway, two o’clock in the morning. Jack Reacher studies his fellow passengers. Four are OK. The fifth isn’t. He ticks off every bullet point on the list as the train brakes for Grand Central Station.

At least we seem to be finished with that teeth business that’s plagued the last couple of books.

The irritation here, is the padding. There always has been a lot of padding in these Jack Reacher books, but it’s developing into an epidemic nowadays and Gone Tomorrow takes it to whole new levels. I’d reckon Lee Child thinks of it as his style (like his style in the first two novels, was the one word, one line sentences. There’s still plenty of them, but he has managed to string more than 5 words together without a full stop in between nowadays. But it’s really not necessary. And irritating. “Get on with it!” As I’m shouting. He doesn’t need to spend so much time on the small things. He’s already convinced us that Reacher has an eye for detail and is very thorough. He can move on, surely? The result of all this padding and analysis, is it removes any last vestiges of tension and therefore excitement from the story. Stringing everything out, with Reacher contemplating every angle and every possible conceivable result, before he chops someone with a backhand to the neck, is an excitement hoover if ever you read one. These stories, in another author’s hands – or an editor with a bigger red pen and a pair – would really be something. But only half as long and therefore not in the airport house-brick section. Just think what a collection of Reacher short stories must be like…

Other things to note, to replace the teeth – what’s with Child and Crown Vic‘s? Everyone’s got them and everyone driving by is in one. And ‘K’ turns? ‘Three Point’ will do, thank you Lee. That and it’s clear he has invested in a new Thesaurus since the last book. Problem there, descriptions become even more of a shopping list. Not just what’s in the room(s) and where, to  l o n g lists of adjectives and verbs, where one would do.

Having said all that…I still like Reacher, he is likeable. More likeable than irritating, in the long run I suppose that’s what keeps people buying them. And a no nonsense way of doing what is needed. Like Mitch Rapp in that way. Just lower down the pay scale. There are some very decent plot and character surprises served up, mostly going to show up Reacher’s fallibility and how it affects him and of course, what that surprise does to us, which is interesting.

You can buy Gone Tomorrow at Booksplea.se

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Review: Nothing to Lose – Lee Child

3 of 5 stars

Series: Jack Reacher 12

My version: Paperback
Fiction Crime, thriller
Bantam Books
2008
Bought

From Hope to Despair.

Two small towns in Colorado, between them nothing but twelve miles of empty road. All Jack Reacher wants is a cup of coffee. What he gets are four redneck deputies, a vagrancy charge and a trip back to the county line.

Reacher doesn’t like being kicked out of town. He has no job, no address, no baggage. Nothing, except bloody-minded curiosity. And once he finds a little thread to pull, a shocking conspiracy starts to unravel…

Getting a little, erm…weary, of the no-name, no rules, little town in the middle of nowhere, USA line, aren’t you?

Personally, I don’t do the middle of nowhere USA stuff. Where, as you and I know, anything goes. It’s been done too many times before, and I’ve moaned about it too many times before. I sart one like this and think “here we go, again…” Really, stories set here; first; I could write the synopsis myself. Second; I shouldn’t be able to. Third; it’s so divorced from reality ( you know it is), that it might as well be under ‘Fantasy’ rather than thriller. Lee Child has done it before with Reacher. So why is he doing it again? Why isn’t he following his own advice to Never Go Back? Running out of ideas? Not a good sign for him. Or me, as I’m only about half way through the (available as of now) 20-odd books he’s put out. So why again? Got to ask if there’s another purpose other than just give Reacher the chance to beat people up.

There is some environmental stuff, some love interest, some skulking and some skull-duggery. There’s some beating up of bad guys and if you can keep your mind on it, it’s not too badly put together. Maybe better than the sum of the parts.

I don’t like this sort of fantasy. So I generally plow straight through as quickly as possible. As here.

You can buy Nothing to Lose from Booksplea.se

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Review: Bad Luck and Trouble – Lee Child

4 of 5 stars

Series: Jack Reacher 11

My version: Paperback
Fiction Crime, thriller
Bantam Books
2007
Bought

You do not mess with Jack Reacher.

He is as close to untraceable as a person can get. A loner comfortable in his anonymity and solitude. So when a member of his old Army unit finds a way to contact him, he knows this has to be serious.

You do not mess with the Special Investigators.

In the past the elite team always watched each other’s backs. Now one of them has shown up dead in the California desert and six more are missing.

Reacher’s buddies are in big trouble, and he can’t let that go.

The Danish version would seem to be called ‘Black Accident.’ Don’t ask me why…

Well, first things first. There’s not so much about teeth this time. American or British. So that’s a relief.

The ‘untraceable’ part just doesn’t work. He’s been tracked down, with relative ease, several times so far in the series. This is just the latest. OK, they’re maybe people ‘in the trade’ but still.

The Special Investigations aspect does work quite well. He labours the ‘clique’ angle a bit, you do feel like saying ‘OK, Lee, we get the message – they’re tight.’ There are several interesting background angles to look at as well. It does help fill out aspects of Reacher’s character nicely. We learn, amongst other things, that Reacher isn’t worried about killing in cold blood. Not when revenge for downed pals is involved anyway.

Style wise. The problem with all the dissecting, the going through all the options, as if Reacher’s brain is trained to work everything out and choose the right, most viable one, given the circumstances, instantly…it doesn’t half slow things down – rather more than somewhat. Takes the force out of the action and makes it just mundane. Manages to take the edge off it. That’s something the film(s) have managed to avoid. On the whole, Lee Child’s style could be a lot, lot tighter. More filmic, in fact. Otherwise, very enjoyable read.

You can buy Bad Luck and Trouble (as I did) at Booksplea.se

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Review: The Hard Way – Lee Child

4 of 5 stars

Series: Jack Reacher 10

My version: Paperback
Fiction Thriller
Bantam Books
2006
Bought

Jack Reacher is alone, the way he likes it.

He watches a man cross a New York street and drive away in a Mercedes. The car contains $1 million of ransom money. Reacher’s job is to make sure it all turns out right – money paid, family safely returned.

But Reacher is in the middle of a nasty little war where nothing is simple. What started on a busy New York street explodes three thousand miles away, in the sleepy English countryside.

Reacher’s going have to do this one the hard way.

The Hard Way, seems to be doing things without coincidences and solutions falling into your lap. Working the clues, examining the evidence, as I think Reacher is fond of saying. That’s all very well…

But…what is it and Lee Child and British people’s teeth, for fuck’s sake?! Lee Child is – or was, he may have changed now – English and presumably still has English teeth. OK, we don’t look like the bleeding Osmonds, but then who wants to? British teeth are, in my experience, no better, no worse than American people’s teeth. Given the portion sizes – and arse sizes – over there and the amount of fast food Americans eat, I’d venture that English teeth are more likely to me markedly better than US teeth. But, and maybe because Child has taken US citizenship and there is a clause therein that says you must take on board the teeth cliche (you probably have to call English people Limeys as well), Mr Child labours (with a fucking U) the point, again and again. And again. That’s what kept it off a five from me. Unnecessarily repeating a false cliche. He’s probably after a job in Trump’s government (I use the word ‘govern’ in its most shambolic sense, obviously).

Other  than that…it’s very good. Hangs together very well indeed. I do like that Reacher gets absolutely nowhere for most of the book. Obviously, there are a few clues scattered here and there and – and only because I tried to do it – I managed to figure it out before the reveal, which at least made me feel good. Lee Child has cut back on the filler again, as I’ve noted before, it’s still a satisfying getting your money’s worth size, but there’s not a lot of wastage. The writing style can be a little mechanical at times, but the improvement over the first two or three, is noticeable. There are whole sentences nowadays, for instance. They could even film this one as well, I’d say, the stuff about the private army and that, would go down very well these days (even though this is now 11 years old). Maybe that’s what’s good about Reacher, what appeals, he is timeless. There is technology in the story, Reacher is largely aware of it, but he has pretty much chosen not to be either aware of it, or use it. So, brain-power and working the clues will never date him. Maybe that is what has taken Reacher to such a wide audience. The hook of the first few books, of Reacher being able to beat just about anyone up he wanted to, when necessary, has been absent for a while now (though there was a bit last time out), so it’s all about plot and Reacher’s brain-power these days.

You can buy The Hard Way from Booksplea.se

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Review: One Shot – Lee Child

4 of 5 stars

Series: Jack Reacher 9

My version: Paperback
Fiction Thriller
Bantam Books
2005
Bought

Six shots. Five dead.
A heartland city thrown into terror.
But within hours the cops have it solved.
A slam-dunk case. Apart from one thing.
The accused gunman refuses to talk except for one phrase:
Get Jack Reacher for me.
Reacher lives off the grid. He’s not looking for trouble. But sometimes trouble looks for him. What could connect the ex-military cop to this psychopathic killer?

I’m thinking, if you’ve read this far with your Jack Reacher, you’ve also most likely seen the film that is based on this book. Either before reading it, as me, or after you’ve read it. That’s more than likely to affect your opinion one way or the other. Everyone who has read the book and seen the film, is going to have an opinion which is better. There’s no such opinion in my view, as ‘don’t know.’ What did I think? Well, I thought the film was good, I read the book after seeing the film and I thought the book was probably better. But they are different animals and the film does alter several parts of the plot from the book and you can see why, given the time constraints for film. The book probably wins by a short head, mainly because it can go in a little deeper to the plot and the reasoning, all of which is well done indeed.

The film did change, as I said, a fair few things. I remember reading at the time, when it became known that Tom Cruise was going to play Jack Reacher, Reacher’s height. Physical descriptions of Reacher have largely been absent from the first few volumes, but LC is increasingly describing him these days (I’m reading them in order, this is where I am now). Mainly, pretty much always, from the neck down, as far as I can remember. That gives scope for Tom Cruise to play him of course, but the height, that’s something else. It’s not made much of in the film of this book, but he does use his height in other books and I’m presuming they’ll not film them.

It’s perhaps the most complete and satisfying of the Reacher books so far as well. Which may be why they filmed it. We’re still in the middle of nowhere USA though, so of course, pretty much anything goes. I do wish thriller writers would base their books more in reality than nowhere USA. I could populate that kind of fictional town with all the characters you’re going to find there. And I clean toilets in a hospital! However, there’s not too much padding this time out. He’s still writing housebricks for housebrick-sake, but there’s more content in the housebrick these days.

I purposely bought the version right at the top there, as I want to collect the set, cover-wise, and the film tie-in doesn’t fit, in my view. If you click on the Tom Cruise cover, you’ll go to a link to buy that version. OK?

You can buy One Shot, at Booksplea.se

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Review: The Enemy – Lee Child

the-enemy-lee-child4 of 5 stars

Series: Jack Reacher 8

My version: Paperback
Fiction Thriller
Bantam Books
2004
Bought

New Year’s Day, 1990.

A soldier is found dead in a sleazy motel bed. Jack Reacher is the officer on duty. The soldier turns out to be a two-star general. The situation is bad enough, then Reacher finds the general’s wife.

This stomach-churning thriller turns back the clock to a younger Reacher. A Reacher who still believes in the service. A Reacher who imposes army discipline. Even if only in his own pragmatic way…

Well, it’s not ‘stomach-churning,’ that’s the first thing. Maybe if you’re a Sunday School teacher somewhere in the USA, but not for anyone else, in Europe for example,  anyway. It can’t be, if you think of it. It has to sell to his previous readers and appeal to more people who are still like his previous readers. It’s not going to dig itself a hole, marketing-wise, now is it?

There’s no real explanation of why this one suddenly takes us back to Reacher’s Army career. Nothing before has set his memories off, and I doubt if the next book will refer to it.

Its job is filling in background. Personal and career-wise. We find out about his brother and especially their mother. Some idea of how his heart is, back then anyway. Where his cosmopolitan background came from.

Younger Reacher? No different to how he is now. Maybe says a little more. Method-wise, the same. The premise of seeing how Reacher got where he is today, is something the book doesn’t really follow through on. All he is now, is how he was then. Maybe more of an eye for the ladies, again, but no real different. Not more wide-eyed, not more cynical. Not more of anything much he is less of now. It’s a good story, interesting enough, but still a hell of a wasteful book. Wasteful of paper and time. Not a waste of time, by any means, just wasteful in that it certainly could have done more with less.

You can buy The Enemy at Booksplea.se

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Killing Floorpersuader-lee-child