3 out of 5 stars. I love Jack Reacher, but sadly not this book. To review, a 5 out of 5 stars means that once invested in the book I don’t want to be bothered with sleep, people, feeding cats, etc. I will read a 5 out of 5 book over all other available reading materials. 3 out of 5 means I finished it, and a 4 out of 5 is somewhere in between. I fully expected this Jack Reacher book to be a 5 out of 5 as all have been before. The first concern hit when I found out this Jack Reacher story pre-dates, by many years, the main Jack Reacher story line. But that has happened before and was done well. Not this time. This time I kept catching myself reading the news, cute little things on Facebook, etc., rather than reading this eagerly awaited book.
Jack Reacher is a carefully and masterfully balanced character, able to carry out our darkest desires with savage efficiency, and yet still seem noble and trustworthy. As the book series progresses we learn bits and pieces about Jack’s past, and what made him as he is, and it all ties together beautifully. These parts of the books are very satisfying. Contrariwise, this book was all background and added nothing of interest.
Worse, while a carefully and masterfully balanced character, Jack doesn’t have much complexity. To make the character seem younger, perhaps, some of the complexity that Jack had seems to have been stripped off. He’s more chatty. Even though life hasn’t beaten him up as much, he’s just as dark. He’s not just self-assured, but cocky to the point of silliness, repeatedly. The masterful balance is gone, and while it’s hard to describe why, there’s no doubt that this is true. The supporting characters all lacked depth and seemed flat. Yes most of the series’ supporting characters aren’t extremely detailed, but the character facets displayed always implied credible people. That was missing as well. I went so far as to check the cover carefully to see if there was a ghost-writer with a Lee Child outline, but found no evidence of it.
Have I gotten crankier about character definition? Am I bored with Jack Reacher? Stephanie Plum is about as simple and predicable as a character can get, and I’m already enjoying Janet Evanovich’s latest. The last Harry Bosch book was great. I don’t think it’s me. I wrote this before checking any other reviews of the book and: It’s Not Me
If you haven’t tried Jack Reacher, I don’t want to discourage you. Every other book has been a 5 out of 5 stars, and there are a lot of them. The link below has a list of all of the books in published order, and describes discrepancies with Reacher’s chronology in case you want to read them in chronological order. I recommend reading them in the order they were published — that way the teasing bits of information on who Jack Reacher is build up nicely. And then I’d stop before Night School.
Before buying another Jack Reacher book, I’ll read the reviews.
Sadly, the Jack Reacher movies are not a fan refuge. Tom Cruise is simply to small to play Jack Reacher — the whole world will react to him differently. In spite of that, the first movie was okay; barely worth going to. A close enough call so I did read the reviews on the new movie (Jack Reacher: Never Go Back) and so will not spend money on that, either.