Apparently deep in the shadiest corners of the U.S. Army there is a very old and neglected general named O’Grady who refers to Jack Reacher as “Sherlock Homeless.”
Which just goes to remind all of us that one of Lee Child’s unsung charms is his sense of humor.
Another one is the fact that he writes so far above his pay grade — as his characters might say. To put it more bluntly, what sells books like Personal is the swift story telling and probably the violence. The laconic elegance of the prose is just an extra. But it’s what gets me buying, because I do not need to read 1500 words detailing every single blow from Reacher’s massive fists as he reduces an English gangster to bloody rubble. There’s a lot of that in Personal, maybe even more than usual. Probably because there was more one-on-one conflict since this time the grudge match was…. you saw the title, right?
The amazing thing is that Child keeps this franchise going while still ticking all the boxes. This time around, Reacher doesn’t sleep with anyone. The female sidekick (present largely to handle the personal electronics; I’ve mentioned this shortcoming of Reacher’s before) is called Casey Nice. And she is. Also tense, carrying around a vial of Zoloft which gets consumed as Reacher’s knuckles work harder. Reacher’s relationship to her is avuncular, which is appropriate, but that’s one component missing. Otherwise, the story gets going with an assassination attempt on the President of France and one of the candidates for the shooter turns out to be someone Reacher put in jail 15 years earlier. Lots of fascinating info about bullet-proof glass (not kidding) and the security arrangements for G8 meetings (also not kidding). Chasing around London, guns, cars, shards of glass, the aforesaid punching. You almost get the sense that Reacher might like reading these books if he weren’t so busy with his fists.