I enjoy reading series installments between other books, because the subject matter of some of the others on my list tend to be quite heavy and intense. I consider these “tweeners” as a sort of palate cleanser. I use that phrase with respect due every writer who spends hours writing a great story and pushing it out to readers. But they’re decidedly fast reads, comparatively.
Lee Child never lets me down. Personal is the 19th installment in the Jack Reacher series. And despite the fact that all of the novels in this series have been optioned to be made into films, they will rarely compare to Child’s writing. From the first book, the writing has been consistent, the action undeniable, and the plots fresh and first rate. Reacher is an interesting anti-hero, in that he is an aimless drifter who, after retiring from the military, is dragged back again and again to fight against inevitable evil from surprising and interesting fronts. Though his mannerisms are a throw-back to a time when “dame” might’ve been an acceptable word for a woman and men were drawn with noir-ish complexity, there’s no denying that Child’s work is entertaining. Reacher is flawed, but stands up for justice and the American way with a no-holds-barred mentality, and he understands — through Child’s careful use of language — that sometimes violence does beget violence, and he rarely loses sleep over his actions. Over the years, I find myself looking forward to the next Lee Child book and eagerly anticipating each one.
In this “episode,” Reacher is drawn overseas, pulled back into service by the State Department and CIA, both of which are interested in capturing the person responsible for taking a shot at the President of France. And it’s suspected that the culprit is an American marksman gone bad…one who Reacher put behind bars fifteen years earlier. As often happens in Reacher’s world, it turns out that the plot was never about the killing of French dignitaries, but Reacher himself. And it’s not the person he suspects who really wants him dead.
This cat-and-mouse game plays out in Child’s signature style. The reader is never quite sure who are the real guilty parties…but one thing’s for sure: Reacher is much smarter than his higher-ups give him credit for, and he always wins. That’s the mark of a true hero.