An old Jack Reacher novel from 1999 that I somehow missed during my Reacher marathon years, this one reminded me of how much fun Child’s plots could be. And how the stress of having to churn out Reacher novels that can appeal to the likes of Tom Cruise are clearly threatening to ruin this delightful adventure franchise.
Retired military MP Jack Reacher is hand-digging swimming pools by day in Key West, and working as a bouncer in a nudie club at night, and reveling in his anonymity and lack of responsibilities, when a New York former-cop-turned-PI shows up at one of his favorite haunts looking for him. For no obvious reason, Reacher refuses to identify himself and the guy leaves. Soon thereafter, the PI turns up beaten to death by two thugs from New York also looking for our hero, and a guilt-ridden Reacher has his mission. He heads to New York where he hooks up with the love of his life to solve the mystery that she is unwittingly knee deep in herself.
The very fact that Reacher has a “love of his life” is a revelation unto himself, as Child’s novels are generally infamous for never allowing Reacher to find complete happiness with a woman. Before the novel ends, Reacher has both a love AND—wait for it—a house! Don’t get too excited, though, because Jodie somehow manages to disappear from Reacher’s life sometime during the next few novels in the series, and he becomes a wanderer again. But it’s great while it lasts, so enjoy the warm snuggly feeling of big Jack and tiny Jodie finding their moments of happiness in luxury hotels and first-class airline seats.
We are introduced to the villain at the very beginning of the story, but we don’t really know what to make of him and his huge secret for a long time. He does get scarier and scarier as the plot evolves, and Reacher and Jodie end up flying all over the U.S., including Hawaii, to try to piece together why they are being targeted and who Victor Hobie, a Vietnam war hero missing for 30 years, is that makes him central to the plot. There are some well-drawn characters in this book, along with a few too many one-dimensional bad guys, and I won’t say this is the best Child book I’ve read, but it is as fast-paced and as satisfying as … well … a Reacher novel.