Written by Lee Child — Jack Reacher, once a major in the US Military Police and now a drifter, is on a bus. That it is not unusual for Reacher. He doesn’t own a car or carry a suitcase, and when his clothes wear out he just buys new ones. Along with him on the bus are a handful of military personnel returning to their base. When they get off, they leave a copy of Army Times on the seat. Reacher picks it up and ends up reading the classified ads where five words in bold print stare out at him: ‘Jack Reacher call Rick Shoemaker.‘
Thus begins the latest episode in the violent career of Jack Reacher. He is only too aware of the aphorism ‘You can leave the army, but the army doesn’t leave you’. His former superior officers know that Reacher is the go-to man when things need to get done without blipping the radar of other law enforcement agencies.
When Reacher does call Brigadier General Richard Shoemaker he’s told that a few days earlier someone tried to do what the Jackal did in Frederick Forsyth’s memorable book – take a long range potshot at the President of France. The target was protected on this occasion by a shield of specially armoured glass, but the sniper has to have been someone with amazing skill. Someone like John Kott, a Czech-American former Delta Force operative who was previously convicted of killing a sergeant from The Rangers. Major Jack Reader himself interrogated Kott, who went to prison for 15 years.
Now, Kott is out, and in a matter of days some of the most powerful leaders in the world are due to assemble in London for the G8 summit. The CIA has a strong feeling that the Paris sniper will cross the English Channel for another attempt. Reacher is told, “You caught him once – you can catch him again.” So, Reacher and his minder-cum-glamorous assistant Casey Nice, an intelligence agent, are flown to Paris to begin the search for the would-be assassin.
The action starts in Paris, where Reacher seeks to reconstruct the circumstances of the attempted assassination with other agents from the G8 nations. Another shooting cuts short the collaboration so Reacher is sent to London, where things really start to heat up. It seems that the elusive Kott is somehow involved with a notorious Essex-based syndicate – the Romford Boys – and Reacher has to do his work knowing that if he gets caught by the English police, his handlers in the US will deny all knowledge of him. The subsidiary characters in the book are lightly sketched, and the enemies who try to stop Reacher completing his task are not as formidable as in some of the earlier novels.
Of course this is an exciting read. It is the modern equivalent of a 1920s/30s Boys Own adventure. Reacher is indestructible and indefatigable. With one bound, he overpowers the most menacing opponents, in this case a particularly scary gangster called Little Joey, who was, in my mind’s eye, none other than the late lamented Richard ‘Jaws’ Kiel. Readers have to suspend disbelief and accept Reacher’s improbable thought processes, and his herculean strength. Do that, and the story becomes a thoroughly enjoyable escapist romp, but in an era where thriller characters are becoming ever more realistic and human you may struggle with some of the more implausible parts of the book. I did also wonder about Reacher’s take on London and its suburbs. Reacher narrates in first person. Author Lee Child is English, but has to convince us that Reacher is operating in an unfamiliar milieu. I wasn’t totally convinced that he succeeded.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars