Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Bad Luck and Trouble

Bad Luck and Trouble
by Lee Child
Recommended Ages: 15+

I'm not going to re-explain who Jack Reacher is; to catch up with the class, see my previous reviews of Lee Child's books, or poke your head out from under a rock sometime. Let's say he's an old friend who's good to have at your back when things go sideways. That's certainly the case for his old Special Investigations unit from back in his days as a major in the U.S. Army's military police. One day, when Jack checks his bank balance at an ATM, he discovers an anomaly, and it's really interesting how he deduces that it's a message from a member of his old unit. With only a little more information about her whereabouts, he finds her pretty quickly. He's still got 'em, those MP skills. And he'll need them, and the skills of any other surviving members of the old unit, because at least one of them has been murdered in a truly horrible way and the others are missing.

Eventually, it turns out that only half of the team is really in trouble. By the time the other half gets back together, they're on their way to figuring out what led to their buddies' bodies turning up, one by one, in the desert east of Los Angeles with every sign of having fallen from 3,000 feet. Helicopters are involved, obviously, but there has to be more. A reason that four seasoned, capable security experts, working together, would go out that way. A reason somehow connected to a mystery man traveling under a series of aliases, seven columns of numbers indicating some kind of fraud, four men's homes being ransacked and maybe – Reacher and Co. gradually begin to suspect – a workplace full of sensitive Department of Defense secrets.

Reacher and his sometime associates Neagley, O'Donnell and Dixon make a terrific team, but they're only starting to pick up pieces of the puzzle when bad guys start making serious attempts on their lives. But that's all right, because they're good at turning the tables, and their plan from word one has been to do unto the throwers-out-of-helicopters what they did to their brothers. They're up against ruthless, brutal forces – possibly even a threat to world peace and security – but these folks are pretty ruthless and brutal themselves, and they're able and willing to disturb the peace and security of whosever world the situation requires. By the end, the situation will require sneakiness, precise timing, risky choices on which tens of thousands of lives might depend, and (no big shock, if you've been following the Reacher series) an expertly timed acceleration of breathtaking violence.

This is the 11th of 24 Jack Reacher novels by British American author Lee Child, who retired from writing the series last year and turned it over to his brother Andrew Grant, a.k.a. Andrew Child (cf. The Sentinel and Better Off Dead) – although Lee continues to be credited as an author. I've given up on trying to read the series in order and have begun just filling books in as I find them lying around. So far, I haven't found continuity issues to be an impendiment to enjoying these books in any order. The next handful that I have on deck are One Shot (No. 9), A Wanted Man (No. 17) and Make Me (No. 20). Unapologetically "commercial" in style, these books nevertheless are lean, effective, satisfying pieces of entertainment with loads of popular appeal and, while they'll probably never be on anyone's list of cherished literary treasures, they do make a fun change of pace now and then. Eventually, I might even veer from my policy of not reading series past the point where their original author passed the baton to someone else, since I've enjoyed Grant's books so far and imagine that he'd do a great job with Reacher, too.

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