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Bookends: Jack Reacher Gets Personal January 28, 2016

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: Jack Reacher Gets Personal

By Dan Davidson

August 26, 2015

– 840 words –



(with bonus short story “Not a Drill”)

By Lee Child

Dell Books

544 pages


Kindle Edition: $11.90


The Jack Reacher novels defy the usual conventions of series’ story telling in that they are given to us in two distinctly different voices. If memory serves, most of the books are third person narratives, but some of them aren’t. Some are written in the first person, and with a title like Personal, I guess that fits for this, the nineteenth book in the series.

The other unusual thing about this series is that it jumps all over the place in terms of chronological sequence. The first book to appear was Killing Floor, back in 1997, but a suggested reading order (yet to be amended) on Wikipedia, tells us that the first novel in the series was The Enemy, published in 2004, and that Killing Floor is two books later in time.

On top of that disjunction, there are a number of short stories that predate the first novel, tales of Reacher’s military service and one reaching back to when he was a boy. These stories seem to appear mostly in the e-book editions of the novels, and perhaps their addition to these explains why the virtual version of Personal is more expensive than the physical paperback.

The story here is personal in a number of very important ways. General Tom O’Day wants Reacher to work for him on an international case. Reacher is a rootless wanderer, so O’Day uses a rather clever method of finding him, and the story begins with that.

Shortly, we discover that someone has taken a shot at the president of France, who was only saved by a special type of bulletproof glass. It was a very long range shot, which only an extreme marksman could have made. There are four possibilities, and one of them is John Kott, a military killer that Reacher had put away during his military police days, but who is now released.

We learn that Kott has an obsessive hatred of Reacher, which leaves our hero feeling he is being drawn into this case as potential bait, but he feels responsible, so he takes it on in spite of his distaste for O’Day and his methods.

His assigned CIA partner on this case is a young CIA agent with the improbable (and very Ian Flemingish) name of Casey Nice. Since there is usually a temporary romance in a Reacher novel, we expect one here, but instead Reacher treats her as a protégé, becoming a mentor to her ingénue role. This shows us a side of Reacher that we have seen before, but not very often.

The first person narrative style demands that the writer give us the internal workings of a man’s mind and heart, and not merely his actions. In the third person narratives, Reacher often comes across as a force of nature, his size, strength and endurance being key factors in his success. Analysis and the application of intelligence somehow seem to be secondary factors. In this book, as in the other first person narratives, the order is reversed, and we learn that he has thought through as many angles of a situation as he can before he acts, most of the time anyway.

Reacher and Nice are off to Paris first, where the sniper strikes again, this time missing Reacher by inches. They move on to England, where the intelligence analysts believe the shooter has been hired to kill someone at the next G8 Summit, which will be held in London.

In a very brief time the pair find themselves accosted by two different local criminal gangs who seem to have banded together to assist the sniper. They are sort of working with a British SAS agent named Bennett, as they are there unofficially and have to fly under the radar. As the story develops it becomes clear that Reacher has figured out that things are not what they have been portrayed to be, but I don’t think most readers will figure out exactly why that is until they hit the twist at the end of the story, long after we expect the tale to have been completed.

The bonus short story at the end of this e-book was “Not a Drill”. It’s set sometime before the novel and, as it is a third person narrative, really points up those differences I mentioned at the top of this review. Reacher is hiking near the New Brunswick border when he get involved with a trio of Canadian tourists and a mysterious military quarantine of the hiking trail they wanted to travel. Again, the title is pretty much a clue as to how the story will turn out. Things are not what they seem, and there’s another double twist in the very short plot. Lots of fun though.

This was great airplane reading. It almost let me ignore the rough spots in the ride to Calgary last week.







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