This is the first Jack Reacher thriller since Lee Child announced that he would be passing the baton to his brother, Andrew, to continue the series. I’ve read all of the previous books, so was intrigued to see how the style of writing might change. For example, Lee Child has previously mentioned in interviews that, now Reacher is getting older, the pace of the books may have to slow down.
If anything, I think this book sees the pace increase. There is certainly more violence and Reacher is only too happy to hand out his own view of justice. It starts at a bar, where Reacher enjoys the music played by a band, and is appalled to find out that the management refused to pay them (and damaged one of their guitars). He takes matters into his own hands and sees that the band is compensated. This episode is by no means central to the story, it just sets the scene of Reacher taking the side of the underdog. That continues when he arrives in a town and sees Rusty Rutherford, an IT guy, under attack on the street. He steps in – and acts as his bodyguard for the rest of the story.
I always enjoy the Reacher books where he teams up with either old army buddies or some law enforcement agency. Here, the natural storyline might have been to work with Officer Rule, a woman officer in the local police who provides some background information on Rusty and seems amenable to Reacher’s charms. However, she remains a peripheral character – instead, Reacher works with Rusty and his colleague Sarah, formerly of the FBI. Later, we meant Agent Fisher – working for the FBI to infiltrate a gang of Russians working in the area. She and Reacher collaborate and manage to save each others necks at various times.
The plot starts to disappoint when Rusty and Sarah are desperate to find some computing servers that hold evidence that their software worked against hackers. We witness Jack Reacher trawling around town, trying to find a rack of black servers. They’ve been passed from one party to another and Reacher threatens or abuses everyone involved until they get the servers back. It’s just not the sort of scene Jack Reacher would normally care about – I appreciate that he’d like to help Rusty clear his name, but I’d rather he’d spent the book directly investigating the case of the missing journalist who was tortured early in the book.
Reacher books typically end with a final battle where he faces the toughest villain. It’s flagged several times in the book that a Russian gangster is arriving from Moscow to sort out his team, so it’s clear that Reacher will have to take him on. Despite having 3 strong characters to choose from, the authors leave Reacher to handle the battle solo. Fisher is out of action, Sands just gives him a lift by car and picks him up later (yes, really) and Officer Rule was an on-looker at the end (although she does offer to cook him a meal). Jack Reacher stories have had strong women characters at the centre of the action in the past (Casey Nice in Personal, Michelle Chang in Make Me, Sergeant Frances Neagley with several appearances), so I was surprised that the women in this story had supporting roles at best.