I’m slightly concerned about Jack Reacher. I know it’s presumptuous of me — the guy has shown me, over the course of 13 books, that he is supremely capable of taking care of himself. Or of me, or of any number of villains (in Gone Tomorrow, highly violent, I lost count at 8). But Reacher’s computer skills are deficient. I think Lee Child needs to rectify that before Reacher steps out on his next adventure.
Here’s the formula, and it’s a great one: Reacher is the lone-wolf American hero with an objection to bad guys. He’s a wanderer, a guy who travels around the country on buses, with a wad of cash and a fold-up toothbrush. Having served in the Military Police he has all kinds of useful skills like marksmanship and dirty fighting tactics. He’s also huge: six feet six and two hundred fifty pounds. The skill I envy him the most is always knowing exactly what time it is, without wearing a watch.
Gone Tomorrow follows the usual Reacher formula only this time it’s set in New York City and opens — you gotta love it — on a subway train in the middle of the night. Reacher’s eye is drawn to a woman whom he speculatively identifies as a terrorist wearing an explosive belt. He attempts to talk her out of blowing up the train. Instead, she shoots herself.
It’s a wonderful piece of misdirection and Child follows it up with many more; it’s almost playful, the number of times he turns his narrative backward. I haven’t been enchanted by the last two Child novels but I liked this one so much that I delayed finishing it — the greatest compliment there is. It was, I have to say, a poor choice on my part since there was a lot of bloodshed in the last few chapters: I am sorry I finished it at 11 p.m. (Not a good night’s sleep.) But as a piece of escape reading, it was artful.
Still: I want Reacher to be hypercompetent, no — omnicompetent. He is Action Man so he can’t spend much time at a computer screen (not very dramatic unless you’re Hugh Jackman in Swordfish) but I don’t like thinking there’s something I can do better than he can. I want him hacking into the Pentagon. I’m hoping that by next summer, when next he appears on the scene, Child will have taken care of this.