Way back in 2010, maybe even 2009, that most generous of editors, a certain Mike Stotter, guessed that I had yet to read a Lee Child book. Of course, I had heard of Lee Child, seen his books, but, as Mike Ripley used to proclaim on his t shirt, “so many books, so little time!” To improve my education Mike sent a review copy of Gone Tomorrow. I can’t find the review now, but I must have been impressed. I spent the next months eagerly reading through the Reacher back catalogue. Since then I have grabbed each new episode almost on publication day. And I have yet to read a Jack Reacher book with even the slightest disappointment. Personal, I am delighted to say is no exception.
The book commences, like other Reachers, with Jack hitching and bussing across the States generally minding his own business. However, in one bus station he happens across a copy of Army Times and finds a message for him in the personal ads. He makes the necessary contact and pretty soon is being flown from the West Coast to an army base in the east.
The US, primarily the US army, has a problem and Reacher is the only person who can resolve it. A few days before a sniper had taken a potshot at the French President in Paris. The assassination attempt failed due to a protective screen which stopped the bullet in its tracks. So why should that concern the US and Reacher? Apparently, the welfare of the French President was the object of American concern.
The real issue was that, the shot was fired from a distance of around 1,400 yards. There were only three snipers around who were proficient at that kind of distance – an Englishman, a Russian and an American. The US military was patently unhappy at the prospect of one of their own potentially being involved, especially as they figure it might just be a scouting mission before the real thing – the assassination of one or more world leaders at the forthcoming G8 conference in London.
The American suspect, John Kott, was the son of Czech immigrants who settled in Arkansas after World War 2. The boy was a loner who was adapt from an early age at shooting animals at long distances. At 17 he graduated from animals and killed his parents, though there was no actual proof. Patently, the best place for someone with his talents was the US army Special Forces where he could kill to his heart’s content, as long as the victims were designated enemies of the US. Reacher became involved with Kott when he started to forget that cardinal rule and began offing people for reasons of his own. Reacher brought him in and, for all Jack knew, Kott was still serving a prison sentence. But Reacher’s maths was wrong, and Kott had been released a few months back. He had returned to Arkansas but had now disappeared again, maybe on route for Paris.
And so to Paris, where Reacher studies the flat from which the sniper had fired, now accompanied by the Russian and British operators of the other two snipers. While they are on the balcony of the flat another bullet is fired from a distance killing the Russian. But for a sudden gust of wind Reacher might have been the victim.
How you doing, keeping up?
Hope so because the waters are about to get even murkier as you might imagine when Lee Child is operating at full throttle. If Kott was behind this shooting the evidence suggests he was assisted by one of the City’s Vietnamese crime syndicates in return for having rid them of the leading figure in the rival Algerian syndicate. In London a similar situation has arisen with the leader of one gang being murdered, much to the satisfaction of the Serbian opposition based in West London and the more home-grown Romford boys who controlled the East End, where the G8 Summit will take place. So to stop Kott, Reacher has to go through the Serbians and the East End mob – not a nice welcome to London.
That’s really as far as I can take you. The rest is up to you. Don’t think for one minute you know what’s going to happen because, like me, you probably won’t have a clue until the final pages. But that is just one of the ingredients that makes Lee Child such an excellent thriller writer. Another ingredient which puts Lee Child head and shoulders above his rivals is the abundance of detail he serves up about the problems which confront Reacher, and how he proposes to overcome them. It’s almost a cookbook guide to wet operations. For all that the guidance material is succinct and never gets in the way of the story which zips along at a fair whack. And then there’s the final ingredient which always ensures a great read from Lee Child—the hero himself, Jack Reacher; one of the most creditable heroes in modern thriller literature.
What would life be like without Reacher? I dread to imagine.