Monday, August 12, 2019

Running Blind

Running Blind
by Lee Child
Recommended Ages: 14+

Alternately titled "The Visitor," this is the fourth in about 24 Jack Reacher thrillers, featuring a guy who doesn't resemble Tom Cruise in the slightest. In this book, the FBI fingers him as Suspect No. 1 in a series of murders targeting women whose complaints of rape and sexual harassment he investigated back when he was an army MP. They recognize soon enough that he's not their guy, but they use some low-down, dirty threats to force him to help them investigate the crimes, all while ignoring every suggestion he makes. Nobody in the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit (cf. Criminal Minds, The Silence of the Lambs, Unsub etc.) cares to hear Reacher's opinion that their psychological profile of the killer is complete bunk.

It takes all the resources of a, well, really resourceful guy to sneak around under the noses of the FBI, doing his own investigation that ultimately leads to – well, to be honest, I had this one figured out before Reacher did. But just to keep me unsure of myself, the author dragged a neon red herring across the track – a piece of deception so complete that I was tempted to go back and re-read parts of the novel to make sure it wasn't a cheat.

Jack Reacher is a fun character to follow. Not exactly a lovable type, he's a stone-cold killer who fixes problems that no one else seems able to fix – brutally, effectively, and permanently. In this book, he reveals a certain kind of vulnerability. For one thing, if you want to hurt Reacher, go after women he cares about – and on some level, at least, he cares about the victims of the crimes in this story. Then there's his wanderlust, an aspect of his character that feels pinched these days, what with a steady girlfriend waiting for him in New York City and a house of his own, inherited from a former C.O. who was all but a father to him. He feels the call of the road, and this adds tension to his romance with the lovely Jodie.

His compulsion to right wrongs also makes trouble for him, which is how the FBI gets its leverage over him. But watching him right those wrongs, to say nothing of how he gets out from under the Feds' thumb, adds zest to what would otherwise be just another crime procedural. It's also kind of refreshing, in a vaguely transgressive way, to experience a serial killer case from the point of view of a crime fighter who thinks behavioral profiling is a load of bull. Reacher doesn't have time for all that head-shrinking stuff. His more direct, hands-on approach to getting the bad guy is a refreshing break from head games, even in a case that clearly has some kind of psychological component.

Next on deck in my survey of the Jack Reacher novels will be Echo Burning. The latest book in the series, Blue Moon, is due to come out in October 2019.

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