If ever there was a case of ‘it does what it says on the tin’ in crime fiction it’s the Jack Reacher novels. We really know what to expect and we get it every time. When it comes to ‘what would Reacher do?’ the answer is always attack and carry on regardless, and every time that generates a level of excitement few series can match. The premise here is that Reacher never walks away from a fight, even if it’s not his fight, and if you’re in his sights maybe you’d be Better Off Dead. Admit it, you’re always willing him to get into a sticky situation so he can blitz his way out.
This is the second co-authored thriller from brothers Lee and Andrew Child and the handover/collaboration seems to be progressing seamlessly. Of course, it’s actually Reacher’s 26th outing and now we know there’s no end in sight. In the world of Jack Reacher the tough guys still don’t know what we take for granted: you don’t mess with the giant ex-military policeman. But then, there’d be no fun if they took the hint and backed off instead of facing up, which leads to their inevitable punishing end.
Reacher is in the middle of a desert, waiting. He’s expecting one guy to turn up. With his usual foresight he arrived early to check the scene out so that there is no ambush. Predictably these guys don’t play by the rules though, there are four of them in the car when it arrives. Reacher just wants to know one thing; where is Michael? Surely it only take one guy to answer a simple question but whoever sent these guys wants to know what Reacher’s interest in Michael is. As the quartet of hoods flank Reacher the first man approaches, the big man’s warning doesn’t deter him, he’s a pretty big guy too, confident, it’s a big mistake. Of course, Reacher puts the guy down, the others move in, we can see how this is going to play out but as the other tackle Reacher a lone figure suddenly emerges from nowhere waiving a gun…
Reacher had arrived a couple of days earlier, dropped in the Arizona desert just this side of the Mexican border, his ride suddenly had to return home. Reacher doesn’t mind walking so he sets off to the nearest town. That’s when the craziest thing happens. There’s one tree for miles around and the only car on the road manages to suddenly swerve and hit it. That’s Where Reacher meets Michaela Fenton, the driver, a former Afghan vet badly injured by an IED as a contractor after the war. Now she’s an FBI agent but very much on a personal mission. Her twin brother Michael has gone missing, he was mixing with a bad crowd. Michaela thinks that she may have got him killed by looking for him but she has to be sure.
The local town is owned lock, stock and barrel by Waad Ahmed Dendoncker, a mysterious character who doesn’t come out into the light very often. Ostensibly he runs a business supplying goods and services to executive aviation for private jets. His company is aptly named Pie In The Sky Inc. The question is what is Dendoncker really up to and how is/was Michael involved in his operation, could it be gun smuggling or drugs?
Initially Michaela thought Reacher might be one of Dendoncker’s men but they get past that. Ever looking for a cause to back, Reacher agrees to help Michaela find out what happened to her brother. If Dendoncker has killed him she wants to exact revenge. Michaela has already been inside Dendoncker’s operation getting a job as a flight attendant, but so far all she’s come up with is a couple of cases loaded on to business flights by the caterers that are not being used in flight. With her instinct as a cop Michaela knows there’s something big going on.
Reacher, the man with a roll of cash, one set of clothes and no home to go to not only has to face up to the villains but also a changing world. In town the hotel has no staff, the check in is online and Michaela has to explain to him how that works. Better Off Dead is choc full of thrills and spills from page one to the denouement. Lee and now Andrew Child are consistent and this Reacher outing is as gripping as ever. This isn’t the best of Reacher but it is a die hard fan pleaser. The opening, which we’ve avoided spoiling is a little clunky, but after that it’s full steam ahead.
Read our review of the first collaboration between Lee and Andrew Child, The Sentinel, and our interview with Heather Martin, author of The Reacher Guy. Also look out for the new Reacher series coming to Amazon Prime starring Alan Ritchson, an eight-part adaptation of the first novel The Killing Floor which has now finished filming.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars