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Child, Lee - 'The Hard Way'
Paperback: 528 pages (Mar. 2007) Publisher: Bantam ISBN: 0553815873

Jack Reacher witnesses an incident in a NYC street that gets him involved with a group of mercenaries lead by wealthy man called Lane. Lane's wife has been kidnapped and Reacher, quite by chance, saw the pick-up of the ransom payment, while having coffee in a diner. But the wife was not released. Reacher is hired by Lane to help recover her, but a little digging soon shows that this has happened before - Lane's first wife was kidnapped and killed several years before. Not all is as it seems, and Jack teams up with an ex-FBI private detective on the side to try and find out what is really going on. It all seems to be linked to an incident in Africa that left two of the mercenaries wounded and abandoned to die.

Now, by all rights, I should really hate this book; it's violent, involves lots of guns, Jack Reacher never puts a foot wrong and can kill without compunction. It's pretty much everything I hate about thrillers. So it's a testament to the clarity and pace of Child's plotting that I actually like this.

Jack Reacher, with his strange personal morality and ability to know the time without the aid of a watch, is quite a compelling character. It's formulaic, of course; you probably wouldn't want to read one too often. The structure of all the ones I've read has been all but identical - Jack wanders onto the first page, bearing just his toothbrush, saves the planet, gets the girl and wanders out again on the last page. But for all that they are well-written, fast-paced thrillers, with an interesting if not always loveable main character.

As I said, with its military leaning, gratuitous violence and formulaic style, I really shouldn't like this. But I do.

Pat Austin, England
May 2007

last updated 4/05/2007 12:47