Because…why not, after all?
I just finished reading Lee Child’s Blue Moon.
In this installment of the long-running Jack Reacher series, Reacher drifts into a town that looks “small on a map of America”, but not too small. The place has “half a million people”.
There are also two organized criminal factions: one Ukrainian, one Albanian. And of course, Eastern European gangs mean trouble.
The trouble finds Jack Reacher when he assists an older man who is on his way to deliver a payment to a loan shark . The loan shark belongs to one of these Eastern European criminal factions.
The older man has a sympathetic reason for his indebtedness to the loan shark. This reason eventually dovetails with the larger criminal plot of the book.
Jack Reacher helps some hapless people in need. He meets a younger woman (but not too much younger—Reacher is in his late 50s now), and he leaves a high body count. At the end of the book, Reacher blows out of town. The local problems are neatly tied up. The younger woman, meanwhile, is slightly crestfallen, but she understands. Jack Reacher needs to move on to his next adventure, which will be much like the one he just had.
This is why I don’t feel any guilt about the vague spoilers. The Jack Reacher novels follow a formula, which I’ve laid out briefly in the above paragraph.
“Formula” and “formulaic” don’t necessarily mean “bad”. During the 1980s, I was a fan of the television adventure series, The A-Team, starring Dirk Benedict, Mr. T., and George Peppard. I knew that every episode was going to end with the A-Team jury-rigging a tank from an old pickup truck (or something similar), followed by a long shootout in which no one would actually be shot.
This didn’t make The A-Team bad or unentertaining. At the same time, though, you did always know how things were going to end; and there was little to distinguish one episode of The A-Team from another.
That is what has happened to the Jack Reacher books. They are fun reads. But each one is also the same read. You know that there is a conspiracy in a random small town. The men behind the conspiracy will be just competent enough to get some people killed, but not so competent that one former US Army M.P. can’t unravel their schemes single-handedly. You know that there will be local tough guys who will decide to fight Jack Reacher. And you know that they’ll lose. You know the woman is coming, too; and you know the trajectory of her relationship with Jack Reacher.
Blue Moon, however, is different in one respect: It is somewhat darker than the previous Jack Reacher books. These tales have always been violent; but in the past, Reacher was magnanimous with his foes when he could be. In Blue Moon, Jack Reacher seems to have developed a sadistic streak. (Or maybe he is just getting grumpy with age.)
As I finish up this review, there is yet another Jack Reacher book listed on Amazon. The Sentinel: a Jack Reacher novel will be released October 27.
The Sentinel is cowritten with Andrew Child, which I can only guess to be one of Lee Child’s children.
I’m not sure if I’ll buy The Sentinel right away. When a big-name author starts coauthoring books with his or her progeny, that is usually a sign that the author is losing enthusiasm and steam. Maybe I’ll go back and read some of the earlier Jack Reacher books that I haven’t gotten to yet instead. I’m sure they’ll be reasonably good, just as I’m sure how their plots will unfold.