In which Jack Reacher starts to repeat himself

I liked One Shot,  the first Jack Reacher novel I read.  So I decided to try another — A Wanted Man.  I listened to this one.  And I was disappointed.

The narrator, Dick Hill, was fine, although he couldn’t do females very well.  He was hampered by a plot that required Reacher to talk with a broken nose, which got boring after a while.  Another problem — again, not the narrator’s fault — is that Child did a Dan Brown-worthy research dump in this novel, and I was desperate to skim through the unnecessary prose.  Did I really need to know how Denver got its name, when not a single scene in the novel actually took place in Denver?

But I had bigger problems with the story line.  One Shot was crisply plotted, I thought, even if the central mystery turned out to be pretty dull.  A Wanted Man aims higher — it involves the CIA and the FBI and Arab terrorists and what not.  But at some point we find out that pretty much everything that happened in the first, exciting part of the novel was in fact completely pointless. And when the solution to the mystery is finally revealed, it turns out to be completely idiotic. The Arab terrorists are doing something in a suburb of Kansas City that they could have done just as easily in a suburb of Mogadishu.

My biggest problem, though, was that once again all the plot machinery seems to have been put in place to give Reacher a chance to sneak into a secluded compound in the dead of night and, against impossible odds and perfectly legally, kill a bunch of bad guys in a bunch of interesting ways.  Is this how every Jack Reacher novel works?  I realize that genre novels in a series are supposed to be somewhat repetitive — that’s part of their appeal.  But I need a little more variety than this.  In addition, Child didn’t bother doing any characterizations of the people Reacher is killing, so the carnage feels much less consequential than in One Shot, where he gave us point of view scenes for most of the victims.  Finally, he pulls an “I could kill you now, Mr. Bond” with the hostage Reacher is saving — there is absolutely no reason for this guy to still be alive (and therefore no reason for Reacher to be risking his life to save him).

Blecch.  Someone please point me to a better Jack Reacher novel.  I’ll give him one more chance.

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4 thoughts on “In which Jack Reacher starts to repeat himself

  1. You need to go back to some of the earlier ones. I actually just finished listening to this same one, and I was disappointed, too–for pretty much the same reasons you mention. It felt much more by rote and made me wonder if Child is writing them faster to keep the market satisfied.

    The Wikipedia page has a good summary listing of the books: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Reacher

    Here are some of the ones I liked best (all in audio, all downloadable from the library):

    Die Trying
    Trip Wire
    Without Fail
    Bad Luck and Trouble
    The Affair

    The one you just heard is the middle of a story arc that starts with 61 Hours, then Worth Dying For, then A Wanted Man, and finally Never Go Back. (I still have to listen to Never Go Back, and I hope it does go back to the quality of writing and characters I enjoyed before.) None of the others are grouped in story arcs that way; it seems to be a recent change of direction for Child.

    Anyway–go back, and try an earlier book, from before the pattern became so comfortable.

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  2. One of my favorites is The Enemy which provides some of Reacher’s back story. It takes place when he’s still in the army and his brother and mother were still alive. Also he only kills one person. Of the Carver list, I particularly liked The Affair which also features a pre-civilian Reacher.

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  3. Pingback: The best books I read in 2013 | richard bowker

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