Personal – Lee Child

This book was sent to me by the Sweet Santa’s at Penguin Random House India in exchange of an honest review

Another Jack Reacher novel, I think to myself with glee. I open it tentatively, worried that this might be the one I don’t like. After all, being the 20th book in a series does take a toll on the creative juices of most authors after all. Well, I should have had just a little more faith – I read the whole book in one sitting through the night and loved it, with the only drawback being a slightly groggy head in the morning. I am going to skip over the discussion of the cover design. Suffice to say a shadowed man in front of a French background is adequate and does the job – one can’t expect thriller/ spy novels to lend themselves to a lot of creativity.

‘You leave the army but the army never leaves you’ is the premise of the whole book. While this statement must feel a tad over-embellished to those who have not known life in an army family, to those who have, it makes perfect sense. So when Jack Reacher is contacted by a superior, O’Day, through the simple process of putting up an advertisement in an Army daily, it makes sense that it will eventually find its way into Reacher’s hands at some point. The only glitch would be the time-frame it would take to achieve this result – thankfully for them, Reacher solves that problem by happening to pick up the paper the first day the advertisement is put up. The reason for his summons, someone has taken a long-range shot at the French President and there are only so many snipers in the world with the capability to do that. If it seems unbelievable to you, understand that the long-range here refers to a shot taken at around a distance of approximately 1400 yards – little more than 1.28 kilometers or 1280 meters. In the Olympics, shooters are across a range of 300 meters from their targets and still miss while the range for High Power Rifles and FullBore target shooting are a maximum of 600 yards and 1200 yards, respectively. Get the idea about how rare a shooter would have to be in order to hit the target at 1400 yards? Obviously, such a shooter would only be found in one of the elite wings of military forces around the world and now the US government is naturally worried whether the pot-shot at the French president was taken by one of their men. Why is Reacher necessary for catching the guy? Because he put a guy with just such qualifications behind bars 16 years ago for a 15-year prison sentence and he is now out and about. The chase takes them to France and back and then on to English soil. Reacher has been assigned a young female partner, Casey Nice, to monitor his movements at all times and report back to the powers that be. I liked the relationship they forge under conditions of severe stress and the way they work together so harmoniously.

The book as usual is fast-paced and full of Reacher taking risks against enormous odds. Sometimes though, one wonders if Jack has a death wish we don’t know about. After all, jumping into so many dangerous situations, often without a single forethought, is not very conducive to the continued well-being of any individual. However, the greatest takeaway from this book is that Reacher certainly has an angel sitting on his shoulder who deflects bullets and keeps villains talking to him instead of shooting him immediately, which invariably gives him time to devise a getaway plan. I also learnt a bit about his parents in this book and was suitably impressed. His sidekick, Casey, at times has some bizarre ideas like calling an ambulance for the thugs who were about to slowly murder both of them before Jack beat them up, but overall she holds her own in Reacher’s hair-brained schemes and shows remarkable guts at the worst of times. I read a few reviews that found the plot far-fetched and not very engaging since it was set in Europe, but I thought it was great. After some confusion, I also understood the climax of the book and was suitably surprised. Things like that are totally possible – I just can’t tell you more and spoil the surprise.

A long running series like Jack Reacher usually tends to run out of steam in the later additions to the series, but Lee Child has thankfully managed to avoid falling into any kind of rut as far as his main protagonist and plotlines are concerned. Eventually, I suppose, he will make Reacher disappear, probably in a hut in Alaska, to maintain the credibility of the series, but for now we can just pray that he keeps giving him more and more adventurous missions to take care of. (I mistakenly wrote that the author would eventually kill him off to end the series, but was so appalled at the idea that I had to change it immediately.)

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