Here, Reacher is incognito, living the life of a drifter and digging swimming pools in Key West. When a PI from New York comes looking for him, and shortly afterwards turns up dead with his fingertips sliced off, Reacher flies north and discovers that the instigator of the search is Leon Garber, his former army commanding officer. But Garber has died the day before Reacher arrives. As Reacher finds out from Jodie Jacob, Garner’s beautiful attorney daughter, Garber was helping an elderly couple to locate their son, who supposedly died in a helicopter crash during the Vietnam War. The military won’t confirm the death, however, or even classify the soldier as missing in action. Pursuing the search together, Reacher and Jacob narrowly escape murder attempts by a pair of dark-suited thugs who work for an evil corporate loan shark named “Hook” Hobie, who has a hideously disfigured face and a metal hook for a right hand. Hobie is harboring a terrible secret linking him to the couple’s vanished son, and he’ll kill anyone who tries to discover his diabolical past.
Of the three Jack Reacher books I’ve read so far, this was probably my least favorite.
Whereas each of the first two books opened with action (KILLING FLOOR opens with the cops rushing into a diner to arrest Reacher and DIE TRYING opens with Reacher stumbling into the middle of a kidnapping), TRIPWIRE takes a while to get going.
Throughout much of the first two books, Reacher is a powerhouse with only a few occasional quirks. You root for him because he’s larger than life — so clever and so brutal that there’s no doubt that if you found yourself in a life-or-death situation, you would want Jack Reacher on your side.
Reacher is still nearly superhuman at times in TRIPWIRE, but we see a lot more of his flaws. He has difficulty shopping for clothes, displays fears about owning a home and is unable to buy some of the supplies he needs because he doesn’t carry a credit card and doesn’t have much money due to his drifter lifestyle. At times, the book drifts from a straightforward mystery/action tale to a fish-out-of-water story. I know the common wisdom says the hero must have flaws to be interesting, but I have to admit that I liked Reacher better when his flaws weren’t quite so obvious.
Things get really strange for a brief period early in the book when Reacher reunites with his former CO’s daughter and he reflects upon his desire for her the last time they’d met — when he was 24 and she was 15. I really could have done without that nugget.
Child again does a good job with his villains, making them ominous and interesting, and Jodie is given enough spunk and intelligence to make her an excellent partner for Reacher. Had the pacing matched the previous books, it would have been easier to overlook the flaws.