A Reacher Novel
By Lee Child
Random House Large Print, 2009, 592 pages
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - June 29, 2009
Lee Child is the author of thirteen well-crafted, thrilling and interesting Jack Reacher thrillers. He is a master of his craft.
Reacher, a very tall and muscular ex-military police major, wanders from city to city, without any plan, where he stumbles on injustices inflicted upon people he feels obliged to help. He travels with what he can carry in his pockets, such as a clip-together tooth brush and an old expired passport. He changes cloths when necessary by buying previously used items, and throws away what he had worn. He knows how lodge in hotels for reduced prices, by offering night clerks a fraction of the regular price in cash late at night, so that the clerk earns money and Reacher has a place to wash, sleep, and "iron" his cloths by placing them under the mattress he is sleeping on. He carries no watch because the clock in his head always knows the exact time, to the minute, even when he wakes from sleep or from being unconscious for hours after being stabbed. If Superman lost all his special powers and had human faults, he would be Reacher. Readers of both sexes find themselves liking this hero and enjoy following him through the twists and turns of his thrilling life.
Reacher has a keen insight into many things and readers find themselves intrigued by his explanations of arcane matters they never thought about. He understands people, both as individuals and in groups. He knows hand to hand combat, even how to defend himself from attacks by several people and uses this knowledge when necessary. He knows that four A.M. is the hour that most people are disconnected from reality and is a good time for an assault. He knows that attacks should be from a high level and how to use this knowledge. Lee Child tells us about his skills, and explains why Reacher is right in an interesting manner.
Unlike many mysteries where readers are not told all the facts, Child's style is to reveal everything that a normal person would see and Reacher's initial understanding of these facts. We tend to agree with his assessment; it is reasonable. Later, as Reacher rethinks about what he has seen, he draws a different interpretation, and this revision also seems plausible to us. These reassessments happen frequently, sometimes prompted by a new event, and each time what Reacher concludes seems reasonable to us.
Child frequently states that a person remained silent after something was said. This silence brings the readers' attention to the remark and moves readers to think about what was said and draws them into the tale.
In Gone Tomorrow, Reacher is in a New York subway some few hours after midnight. The temperature is warm. He sees a woman dressed in an overcoat who "undoubtedly" meets all of the dozen criteria devised by the Israeli Mossad for a bomb carrying terrorist. Reacher approaches her and tries to dissuade her out of killing so many people. But he is unsuccessful. She draws a gun and shoots herself. He then realizes that the dozen criteria also apply to a suicide. But do they also describe a different mind-set?
This simple scene raises many other questions. Did Reacher's efforts to save the subway and its inhabitants drive the woman to suicide? Why was she on a subway, an unusual place for a suicide? Why did one of the people on the subway disappear before the arrival of the police? Why did a federal agency involve itself in the affair? What agency is it? Why are the agency agents trying to persuade Reacher to abandon his interest in the matter?
Reacher feels compelled to resolve the woman's death. Despite repeated government attempts, some quite brutal, to stop him, he perseveres. He is shot several times by government agents with tranquilizer guns and is assaulted with real bullets by others. Many interesting characters enter the story, delta forces, Al Qaeda, Afghanistan, a senator, a female cop who prefers not to be drawn into the affair and a male police officer whose nephew is kidnapped. Reacher is frequently frustrated in his attempts to find answers by the government invoking the Patriot Act instigated after 9/11.
This book holds the reader's interest throughout, without let up. It is an enjoyable read.
Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of a series of books on Maimonides, a twelfth century philosopher, and a series of books on Targum Onkelos, the earliest existing translation of the Hebrew Bible. Both are published by Gefen Publishing House.