Reading a large sampling of the Jack Reacher series in the past year, I have a fairly good idea of what I’ll get when I crack the cover of one of Lee Child’s literary popcorn offerings.
Every once in a while Child will surprise me a bit by deviating from the standard Reacher formula, but it seems those stories are the exception and not the rule.
The eighteenth Reacher novel Never Go Back is another standard entry in the formula, though early on it appears that Child was considering exploring a different avenue in the long running series.
Reacher is recalled to the headquarters of his old unit, the 110th MP. After speaking to the current commander, Major Susan Turner, on the phone, Reacher hitchhikes his way across country to report in and ask Turner out to dinner. (He’s intrigued by her voice and wants to see if the mental image he’s created matches reality). When he arrives, Reacher finds Turner has been removed from her post and arrested. In addition, he’s reinstated into the Army and arrested for two crimes that he committed during his time in the service. One is the severe beating of another solider and the other is a potential paternity suit.
Of course, it’s not long before Reacher realizes that there are larger forces working against him and Turner. Reacher quickly breaks out of military prison, taking Turner with him. The two begin a cross-country trek to find out the truth, all while eluding bad guys who want to do Reacher harm. Oh, and of course, Reacher and Turner hook up along way, doing a will they or won’t they dance for the novel’s first third before finally giving into their animal instincts.
As with all Reacher novels, I learned that everything a person needs to survive can be found in two locations — a drugstore and a diner. All other stores or restaurants pale in comparison and as long as you can pick up a travel toothbrush, that’s all you really need to survive. Well, I guess that’s the case if you’re Jack Reacher.
I also learned that you can break the fingers of your adversaries while on a crosscountry flight and no one around you will notice or say anything.
As I’ve said in other reviews of the Reacher novels, Child is a modern day Ian Fleming and the Reacher novels are Bond novels for a modern era. They’re fun, light-weight thrill novels that give us clues on how men should function and relate to the world. Reacher’s attitude and reaction to everything is intriuging as is the fact that every single woman he crosses paths with instantly falls in lust with his animal magnetism. (It surely can’t be his clothes since, again, he buys EVERYTHING at the drug store and thinks a great date is grabbing food at the local greasy spoon. Not much room for romance in the Reacher world).
Never Go Back is entertaining and Child knows how to keep you turning the pages. But I found the first half of the novel far more intriguing and compelling than the last half. The novel’s last quarter feels a bit drawn out — far too much time is spent in a cat and mouse game surrounding the girl who could be Reacher’s daughter — and it feels as if Child leaves a couple of opportunities to strengthen the series on the table. In fact, I will be stunned if the events from this novel have any long-term impact on Reacher and the series.