A bushel of previously uncollected Jack Reacher stories brings the vagabond hero from childhood to hunkhood.
Child's (Night School, 2016, etc.) hero, an ex-Army investigator whose travels always put him in the path of someone who needs his help, has shown a durability to match his popularity. The formula barely changes from novel to novel, but there's a pop-culture canniness to it that’s irresistible. The fun of Reacher is his mix of Holmes-ian deductive genius, wisecracking insolence, and tough-guy muscle. He can find a cop on the take by witnessing the police response to a staged mugging or reduce a Mafia henchman to a bruised and bloody pile. The stories in this collection feel, at times, almost like fan fiction—especially the one in which a teenage Reacher finds himself wandering through New York City on the night of the 1977 blackout and, before dawn, helps a cop nail a drug kingpin, canoodles with a Sarah Lawrence coed, and delivers the tip that helps catch Son of Sam. But still, there’s a kick in seeing the character so fully formed from such a young age in this story and the one in which he's an Army brat dealing with bullies at a new posting. And the short form is refreshing after the misfire of Child's last novel, in which the violence became unpleasant and the tone curdled. No such problem here. And it’s encouraging that the novella Too Much Time, which leads into the next Reacher novel, feels like a return to form.
These are tasty appetizers that will hopefully lead to a satisfying entree.