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by Lee Child
Bantam, April 2005
389 pages
ISBN: 0593051831

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Jack Reacher's ninth outing by that wonderful American writer, Briton Lee Child, is here to entertain us once more. Child has, over his previous eight novels, revealed more and more of Reacher's earlier life and this narrative is no exception to the rule. Child can most certainly not be accused, as so many writers can be, of not making his protagonist grow.

In the prologue, a sniper who is extremely pleased with his capabilities, assassinates five people. It is rush hour in Indianapolis. The killer, paradoxically, has observed the local laws by inserting money in a parking meter before beginning his mayhem. He has expended six bullets on his five kills. Each kill was achieved with a head shot. The sniper's long-gone instructors would have approved of his efforts.

Clues left behind in the parking garage ensure that James Barr, a former soldier, is arrested for the massacre. He is asleep when arrested and too groggy to respond to interrogation. When he is sufficiently clear-headed to be questioned, he instructs his lawyer to 'Get Jack Reacher for me.'

The search begins - but Reacher, so far as the American government is concerned (the official bit, at any rate) is a non-person. To add to the confusion, Barr is severely beaten when in jail and lapses into unconsciousness with a resultant loss of memory.

Reacher, in the meantime, is in Miami indulging in two of his favourite occupations -- womanising and sunbathing. A news item about the killings in which the reputed shooter is identified ensures his immediate departure for Indiana.

This is typical Child: tight plotting, plenty of action, short (too short, perhaps at times?) sentences and a few red herrings. Mr Child's extensive knowledge of guns is put to good use, too. Mind, perhaps the author's -- or Jack Reacher's, at least -- views on 'sweet girls' and mine might differ. One such lass vigorously attempts the seduction of Reacher but fails. Quite a few memorable characters, including a struggling woman defence lawyer at odds with her prosecutor father, a very ambitious television reporter and some rather nasty Russians, people this oeuvre.

I have made this particular point in several reviews of Child's books -- were the words 'Reacher said nothing' (substitute other characters' names for 'Reacher') removed from the narrative, the word count would be considerably shorter. Please, please, couldn't we have some variation?

This nit having been picked, the tale will, as with all this author's output, bring a lot of pleasure to many readers.

Reviewed by Denise Pickles, March 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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