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A WANTED MAN
by Lee Child
Delacorte, September 2012
416 pages
$28.00
ISBN: 0385344333


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Lee Child has written another installment in the on-going saga of the formidable Jack Reacher, ex-military police and apparent drifter, and his seemingly endless forays into trouble. In A WANTED MAN, Reacher is still trying to reach Virginia, as he set out to do in WORTH DYING FOR in 2010. He hasn't gotten too far, since as this book opens he is trying to hitch a ride on a lonely Nebraska Interstate. Reacher spends much of the book going back and forth on deserted roads in that state and in Iowa and Missouri, so fans of this series can not hold out much hope that he will make it back East this time around either. But the fact is that not much ground is covered, either literally or figuratively, in any one Reacher book. Child has the ability to write with great specific examples and describe Reacher's minute observations of his world in amazing detail. Half the book may be gone, but only a few hours of time elapse for Reacher. This is what makes Jack Reacher so much more compelling than the super-hero types who inhabit the pages of other mystery and thriller writers today. We get to follow Reacher's thoughts moment by moment as he, for example, goes over the possible trajectories of the bullet from a gun that is being pointed at his head.

The reader must understand, however, that suspension of disbelief is usually required at the novel's start. There would be no story if Reacher, waiting for a ride at a lonesome crossroad, were picked up by a jovial truck driver who buys him a beer and happily drives him all the way to a bus depot in Chicago. Reacher has to be picked up by a trio of nefarious characters who happen to be two killers and a kidnapped cocktail waitress, although it takes him a while to figure this out. What happens along the way is pure Reacher, with so many mental calculations going on and so much parsing of information and figuring out chances that no one can complain of being bored.

Unlike other Reacher adventures, the violence in the first half of the book is mainly in his thoughts, but soon things change. The state police are putting up roadblocks and the FBI and the CIA are hunting for two men who knifed another man to death at an abandoned pumping station. People may not be who they appear to be in the beginning. It is not clear why the CIA is involved, but it seems that what is underway is not just a simple murder investigation. Undercover operations are being conducted all over the area, and the various groups involved are not aware of each other. A female FBI agent named Julia Sorenson is ordered to arrest Reacher, but she is won over by his inimitable gift of verbal persuasion. They end up working together to uncover a multi-national terrorist plot.

Then the violence really begins, as Reacher makes a one-person assault on a camouflaged compound in the middle of the night. Without going back and making a list, it would be hard to say at the end how many bad guys Reacher kills before he can head East again. But he does, also, have a burning personal reason for his killing spree, which I will let the readers discover on their own. As always, time spent with Jack Reacher is absorbing and passes much too quickly.

Anne Corey is a writer, poet, teacher and botanical artist in New York's Hudson Valley.

Reviewed by Anne Corey, September 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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