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Bookends: What’s the meaning of the green paint in the bathtub? February 5, 2015

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: What’s the meaning of the green paint in the bathtub?Running Blind

By Dan Davidson

July 29, 2014

– 836 words –


Running Blind



544 pages



Jack Reacher is a dedicated loner, an ex-military policeman whose peripatetic childhood left him with an itchy foot. At the end of Tripwire, the third of these novels, Reacher had almost settled down with Jodie Jacob, the daughter of his former commanding officer. Leon Garber had gone so far as to give Reacher a house in his will.

Lee Child had not yet begun to bounce Reacher’s saga around in time and space when this one came out. In later books we would learn what set Reacher on the road in the first place and even dig up some stories from his army days, as well as some from his childhood. In this fourth book, originally published in 2000, we pick up Reacher’s story right after he and Jodie get together, just a few months later, but it’s time enough that Reacher is already beginning to feel anchored by the house and its requirements.

Reacher has his own sense of justice, and when he sees a New York restaurant owner being shaken down for protection money by some mob types, he arranges to meet them on his own terms and concocts a scenario to scare them off. It involves putting them in the hospital for a while and making them think he is working for another gang boss.

This is an effective plan, but it happens at just the wrong time. Arriving home, he finds himself being picked up by the FBI as the lead suspect in a series of murders. They have been watching him for days, and his little ploy with the gang members gives them a way to hold him for his vigilantism.

It seems that Reacher exactly fits the profile that has been drawn up to account for the murders of several ex-service women, some of whom he knew during his years in the military. He knew them because he had worked on their sexual harassment cases. Now they are dying mysteriously.

Forensic examination is unable to reveal just what killed them. The killer has left no clues. Each woman has been found in a bathtub filled with the sort of military issue green paint used on military vehicles. There are no signs of a struggle at all.

It seems that there is a serial killer on the loose and the FBI’s expert profiler, Julia Lamarr, is convinced that it’s either Reacher, or someone just like him: a loner, ex-military, familiar with police procedure and possessed of his own sense of justice.

She will only admit she might be mistaken when another victim is found to have been killed during the time they had Reacher in custody. At that point the FBI switches tactics and coerces Reacher into working for them as a consultant on the case. Essentially they threaten to let the mob Reacher has just inconvenienced know who his girlfriend is.

Reacher has several problems to overcome in this story, which is more of a mystery than many of these books have been. He has to arrange to keep Jodie out of trouble. To do that he has to call in some favours and do an end run around the FBI while working for them.

In working the case as it has been presented to him so far, he uncovers a theft ring within the military and has to deal with that. When he does uncover the actual killer it turns out the situation is less of a serial case and more of a “purloined letter” situation, but that means that the FBI is seriously embarrassed by the outcome and tries to blame it all on him.

That’s not all that’s going on in this book though, and I hinted at the other problem back at the beginning. In spite of having been attracted to each other for years and having finally found each other, he and Jodie are headed on diverging life paths. She wants corporate success and a settled life as a lawyer. He wants to roam. The house and its needs are making him edgy and unsettled. They need to come to some sort of decision about their future together and this investigation strains their relationship to a breaking point.

There’s a little bit of extra pressure in the person of FBI agent Lisa Harper, 29, gorgeous and deliberately put on this case to watch Reacher and to tempt him, if possible. She’s not comfortable with that part of her assignment, but the two come to respect and like each other and things do get a little complicated.

Lots of the Reacher novels are more like adventure thrillers than mysteries. Except for the killer’s anonymous first person musings in italics sprinkled throughout the book, this is a straight mystery in most ways and we see Reacher using his mind rather than his muscle most of the time. I enjoy that sort of story.






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