by Lee Child
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I love action thrillers. They are fast moving, clever, with plots that twist and turn like a disco dancer. The guru of this genre is Lee Child and his character Jack Reacher is the unmitigated king. He usually publishes one Jack Reacher novel a year, but this year, we fans got two. What a wonderful year.
Jack Reacher is handsome in a XXX scruffy sort of way, a highly-skilled fighter, can read people like a Monday morning quarterback and has the bias for action we admire in others. His early life was spent in military intelligence, with many awards chronicling his success. When he retired, he became a drifter, walking across America, getting to know the country he never knew as a child. He’s a man’s man (quiet, doesn’t say much, accepting), strong, damaged by life, but without self-pity. He enables us his readers to try out traits that we wouldn’t have the courage to embrace in real life. For example, own nothing. Reacher owns only what he can carry. He buys his clothes cheap and tosses them when they get dirty. His mind is always open to the world around him and he always takes time to explore–a trait we encourage in our children and denigrate in adults. Jack shows us how to do it and make it work.
Reacher accepts whatever life throws his way, which may explain why Lee Child names his alter ego’s books with fatalistic phrases like Bad Luck and Trouble. Die Trying. Nothing to Lose. Gone Tomorrow.
And The Hard Way. This is one of the best in the series. The essence of a Jack Reacher story is Reacher as puzzle master. He ends up in the middle of a plot with clues scattered like breadcrumbs. Something catches his attention. Reacher has a few hot buttons, such as mistreatment of military vets or dogs or children. It could be one of those or something else, but once it’s on his radar, he doesn’t let go until he’s put each puzzle piece in its rightful spot. He never runs out of ideas. If one fails, he tries another. Usually, he solves the mystery quickly. Sometimes, it takes longer. In The Hard Way, nothing worked for our hero. By the end of novel, just in time for the climax, Jack came up with one more solution, which he called the Hard Way. I won’t spoil it for you, but it brings to mind a time in every person’s life when Plan A failed, then Plan B failed, and like dominoes, our world crumbled until all that was left was Plan Z.
That’s the Hard Way.
I had one of those recently. I had to print one hundred fifty-page booklets for a presentation. My usual printer couldn’t do it, so I decided to use my business laser printer. First I ran out of ink, so had to order more (that’s right. Staples didn’t carry them). When the toner arrived, my printer broke. I bought a new printer, started all over, but toner prices for new printers were so high, my booklets were going to cost $20 each–beyond my budget. So I went in search of a cheaper printer. Ten days later, I had those darn booklets, but I’d gotten them The Hard Way.
That’s what I mean. And once Jack Reacher starts, he doesn’t lose.
I wish I could read that book again for the first time. Rarely does a book speak to me so personally about problem solving and life and the human penchant for tenacity. Did you read it? What did you think?