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The Midnight Line (A Jack Reacher Story)

Lee Child
The next in the Jack Reacher series of thrillers, number 22 to be a bit more precise. It follows the formula that Lee Child set out in the first book but, while totally civilian this book is about the military and the after effects of casualties of Afghanistan. In particular, it is about wounded ex servicemen and women who become addicts because of the medication they received in hospital.

As ever, Reacher is doing his lonesome thing travelling around the USA. Having just finished an extremely short and passionate liaison with a young lady, or rather she walked out on him; he jumps on the first bus out of town. At the first comfort stop in a small hick town he takes a stroll and passes a pawn shop which has a tray of rings on display. One of these rings catches Reacher’s eye and he goes in to ask about it. Why did it catch his eye? Because it was a Class Ring from West Point, the United States Military Academy, very small so more than likely a female former alumnus. Reacher considers that it is strange to see a ring in a pawn shop as most people passing through West Point don’t just pawn a ring that took four years of hard work to obtain, along with the prestige of wearing it. Reacher determines to find the owner and return it so buys the ring from the pawn shop and starts to track down how it got to the window display.

Starting with the pawn shop owner he tracks back the path of the ring, which seems to be linked to drug related criminals. The pawn shop owner is a bit reluctant to give out any information until he is persuaded by Reacher, but once Reacher leaves he is on the phone to the next person in the line to warn him that a huge man is looking for the owner of the ring and is not too fussed about how he gets his information. As he moves down the line a suggestion is made that Reacher is shot before he gets to the next link in the chain because he is so big.

Now this is where it seems that Child is taking the p*** out of the films being made with the diminutive Tom Cruise playing the eponymous role. Reacher is described initially in this book as the Incredible Hulk and later as Big Foot, the legendary yeti like creature of America folklore. Even the country that the story is taking place in is described as huge and everything is vast, distances, size of farms etc. The State is Wyoming which apparently has more cattle than humans. I think that we have the message, Child likes the money from the films but does not like the actor portraying his ‘hero’.

Back to the story; Reacher traces the ring back down the trail of criminals and the moving of items which have been sold to pay for drugs. This leads into the ‘message’ of the book. The owner of the ring is involved in the drugs trade as a user because of her injuries so why has she gone criminal to get her supply of drugs and not use the VA system? The descriptions of the person plus their actions means that guessing the injuries is not hard and therefore do not come as a ‘shock’ when revealed. Reacher, ever on his white knight campaign sorts out the criminals in his inimitable fashion and here Child has returned to the Reacher of the early books making for an enjoyable read.

The writing is good, as ever, and easy to read. The descriptions of the country, indeed of the injuries themselves is quite graphic so again easy to picture; horizons stretching away in to the distance, small clouds of dust indicating the arrival of vehicles and the general feeling of space in the State of Wyoming comes over very well.

Amazon product

For devotees of the Reacher series this is a good book and a return to the Reacher of yore, to the lover of a good thriller then this is also a good read as a standalone story. My one gripe (well maybe there are more than one) is Reacher’s age. Using the timeline he must now be in his 60s yet acts like a young 30 year old. Still it has always been thus but there must come a time when the author calls time on the super-fit, able to fight five at a time man and have him settle down; maybe not in one place but not have him creating havoc wherever he goes. Of course when that happens much of the shine will drop off the character, but the thought of OAP acting like Rambo begins to grate slightly. Dont take this as a major negative though as it is easy to ignore the age factor and just enjoy the writing.

4/5 for Reacher – just Reacher!
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