Scoop Review of Books

Jack Reacher Travels With No Gun

A Wanted Man by Lee Child (Bantam Press 2012)
Reviewed by Ruth Brassington

Jack Reacher does it again. This man doesn’t have nine lives; this is his seventeenth adventure. This formidable giant of a man enters the book with a decoratively broken nose, takes incredible risks and makes them credible. Or rather writer Lee Child makes them credible for the duration of the reading journey as he holds us on our belief threshold through a few thicks and many thins. The first page provides a corpse in a green winter coat which clearly didn’t stop him getting cold, and there are more corpses to meet along the way.

Part of a trio cluster of Child’s books, A Wanted Man fits with 61 Hours and Worth Dying For but is a standalone read. Clustered in the confines of a car, Reacher and three co-travellers are on their way across America meeting road blocks and other obstacles.

Only Reacher could have hitched a ride with such companions in sparsely populated middle-American Nebraska, only Reacher could have interacted with them in the ways he does. And soon he starts on his trademark counting – “Normally numbers would fill the void in his head” – miles, minutes, populations, eye-blinks, he counts them all. Sometimes overwriting makes for a filmic spoof of a character, as when Sheriff Goodman “put his left palm in his headlight beam and dialled his cell with his right hand thumb”, but this is part of the entertainment.

Who needs Scandinavian thriller writers to hold them in thrall, when we have displaced Englishman Child taking us through his American dream with alter-ego Reacher wielding Glocks, Colts and sub-machine guns – none of them his own. This man travels with no gun yet often seems to have his hands full of them. He doesn’t even carry a pocket knife. If a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do, he should realise there’s only so much a man can do with a toothbrush.