My first introduction to Jack Reacher. Thank you, Lee Child, below, for handing a modern day hero for grown ups. This novel has an almost fantastical undercurrent to it. That ‘one man is magnificent and can solve all crimes’ we all like to believe in. You don’t ever find yourself doubting in Reacher’s ability to crime solve, which means you can easily sit back, and escape into this tale. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it was incredibly thrilling but what I will say is that it is gripping, a plot you would think is easy enough to guess but actually you hit a few bumps and rocks along the way. It is a fast-paced novel worthy of it’s success but from online reviews it appears it may be the worst in the series. Which, is in fact promising. As a virgin, never to have experienced Jack Reacher before, I have a few holes in this novel to pick with Lee Child about his style. Although he must be doing something right if this is number TEN in the series!
As I said, I haven’t read the other Jack Reacher novels but is Reacher supposed to be a know-it-all. I do appreciate Child’s desire to create a one-man-takes-on-the-world character, sort of modern day cowboy, to feed into the “child” in everyone, but at times it merely gets ridiculous. This is a man who can break a mans two wrists in one movement – OK, believable, because he is ex military – but he is also someone who knows the definition of a Grange offhand but has never heard about texting? This drew me out of the novel and thought of Lee Child sitting, trying to see where he can squeeze in a new found fact of the day. And for a character that has a tiny invisible clock in his head that allows him to tell the time perfectly in any time zone, ironically, makes me question what time the novel is set in!
Plotholes, mind you don’t fall in!
There is also a lot of plot holes. Where Reacher will be discussing facts with one of the ‘bad guys’ and they willingly discuss their pasts with him. Such happens in the scene where Reacher is trying to find out what happened to two of the men left in African war zone with one of the ‘guys’ Burke. Burke and Reacher take leisurely stroll where Reacher questions him about the two men, Hobart and Knight. For an Ex Marine, Burke seems altogether too eager to impart with information and seems to trust Reacher straight away. Child writes a few throw-away sentences of
“How (do you know their names)? Who have you been talking to? There’s nothing about them in those file cabinets you were looking through. Or in the computer. They’ve been erased. Like they never existed. Like they’re dirty little secrets. Which they are.’
Dirty Little Secrets..Why then, Burke, are you so happy to discuss them? You chat away with all the trust in the world to this person (Reacher) you just met and don’t even bat an eyelid when you see him rifling through your Commanding Officer’s filing cabinets? It is all too unrealistic, not only is Reacher apparently superhuman but he only suffers consequences for his actions if/when Child wants him to and/or when it progresses the plot.
Unbelievable…but in a good way?
There is also the case of Pauling recognising Reacher because Pattie must have passed along his physical appearance. However, it was clearly stated earlier that Patti has never been able to correspond with Pauling, she didn’t even know she was still working on her case. Maybe it is just me nitpicking, but these are the issues that pull me right out of a novel.
Ironically, as well, in his attempt to ‘colour’ his writing, I was taken even further out of the novel. Surprisingly from the very beginning his sentences are short and detached; it’s all very ‘matter-of-fact’. It takes a bit of time to get used to. But then you have, at times the opposite, like below. This is an extract when Child seems to remember he is a writer and tries to embellish his writing but ends up just saying the same thing in various different ways. His sense of description is convoluted and repetitive.
“two roads in, radial, like spokes in a wheel. One was north of northeast and the other was east of northeast. We called then the One O’clock Road and the Two O’clock Road. Like the face of a wristwatch? If twelve o’clock was due north, there were roads at the one o’clock position and the two o’clock position”.
Never Eat Shredded Wheat – North, East, South, West.
This extract also draws attention to the most infuriating addition to Child’s novel – the constant compass. Now, I should think that I am by no means unintelligent, but I still need to picture a compass in my mind and say my little rhyme (Never Eat Shredded Wheat) to even figure out where my house is positioned in the world. So forgive me if I skipped through Child’s constant breakfast bowl of shredded wheat. It seemed like every chapter was another description of a New York block that faced every which way. I am struggling to understand Child’s purpose for all of this, besides the fact that Reacher was in the army? Is this military talk? Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but to me it is completely alienating. I’ve been to New York, but I didn’t care what was north or west then so I certainly don’t need to read about it.
Swimming in a pool of negativity.. but I still want more?
OK, I know I have been giving Lee Child a hard time so far, but how come in the end I can say I will definitely read the rest of the series, what does that say about me?
What I did like about this novel is that it is quite fast paced. Quickly getting over the patronising compass and random convoluted descriptions, the novel flowed well. I did think the climax was easy enough to guess, but there was still enough plot to distract the reader and take them on a journey. Despite all the parallel between minuscule matter-of-fact sentences and long convoluted attempts of embellishment
I read it in one sitting so I would happily go back and read the series from the beginning. It is fantastic as a one timer (I don’t think I will return to read it again anytime soon)
I have read some promising reviews of the other novels online and they have convinced me not to allow this novel to taint my opinion of the series. The Hard Way is a good enough book to stand alone, I did not feel like I was missing anything that could only have been learnt from the others, so overall I imagine it fits well within the series as a whole.
Apparently, the Reacher novels are worth reading because of the mixture of mystery, plot twists, action, and Reacher’s blend of justice. That sounds good doesn’t it?
Can anyone confirm this? Has anyone read any other of Lee Child’s? If anyone has more info on this strange ‘matter-of-fact’ writing – please save me from myself and let me know if it’s worth reading his others?!
All I know is, Lee Child has given us a tenth novel to help us escape from our world. Who cares if his writing isn’t on point, I will even overlook the compass, this character has an incredible skill to tell the time whenever and where ever he is (What?!). He also has a depth of knowledge that I am sure he never picked up in the army, learning how to smash the bones in a wrist or send someones cheekbone into their brain, but this is fiction. Is that not OK? If we cannot create a fantasy in Fiction then where can we?
One point of absolute value that I have taken from this book is Jack Reacher’s mantra of No use fretting about what you cannot control. Yes. Yes. Yes. Thank you. For any of you that have read my About Me page, I live by the philosophy of – you always have the power to choose your own attitude. And it seems Reacher feels the same. Worrying won’t change things, so choose to be happy or proactive or crazy or dance around the place in moments of madness because you, and you alone, are the only person who can change how you feel. Don’t let anybody else do it for you.
So, I salute you, Mr. Child, I look forward to seeing what other repetitive and bonkers situations Reacher can get himself into next!
Don’t forget to let me know what you guys thought in the comments below! Thanks for reading!