The Hard Way — Lee Child

To be clear: I am predisposed to like any novel in this series about Jack Reacher. Reacher is the ultimate strong silent hero, an ex army MP who roams the country never carrying anything with him but a toothbrush. He works when the mood strikes him — one novel begins with him digging pools in southern Florida simply for the physical workout — but in the more recent novels he rarely stays anywhere more than two or three days.

Generally Reacher tries to stay off the grid. He doesn’t have a driver’s license, he accepts no federal money, he always pays with cash. But he’s also got a strong sense of right and wrong, and he doesn’t walk away from a fight.

This is the tenth Jack Reacher novel. I haven’t disliked any of them, though some I wouldn’t necessarily re-read. My favorite is still Die Trying, and I liked Without Fail and Tripwire almost as much.

So this new novel, Reacher is spending a couple days in Manhattan. He’s sitting in an outdoor cafe and he sees a man walk up to a car, get in it, and drive away. That simple beginning launches him into a kidnapping investigation, one with many twists and turns. He teams up with a former FBI agent, a woman he’s very attracted to.

Reacher likes women. They like him back.

I’ve been trying to figure out why I didn’t like this novel as much as the last one. A couple things come to mind: for the first time, I noticed a wrinkle in a clue before Reacher did. That bothered me. And more important, I kept waiting for him to remember where he was. In Tripwire, he comes close to settling down. A young woman he knew as the daughter of his superior officer comes back into his life. She’s thirty, divorced, a lawyer. They never acted on the mutual attraction when he was in the service, but now things heat up, and Reacher comes as close as he ever will to living a somewhat normal life. All that happens in Manhattan, and it ends in Manhattan too, and not easily.

At no time in this novel does Reacher ever think about Jodie. He never takes note of places he had been with her, where he lived with her, where she worked. He never wonders about her, if she’s come back to Manhattan. I kept wondering, but to him it was as if she never existed. Somehow that just doesn’t sit right. I wonder if Lee Child did this on purpose, and why.

It didn’t ruin the novel for me, but this oversight was in the forefront while I read. Which really, was a shame because otherwise it’s a good story, well put together and full of classic Reacherisms.