You don’t mess with the special investigators … BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE by Lee Child

His life and his history lacked many things. He had never known stability or normality or comfort or convention. He had never counted on anything except surprise and unpredictability and danger. He took things exactly as they came, for exactly what they were. Therefore he heard the slide rack back and felt no disabling shock. No panic. No stab of disbelief. It seemed entirely natural and reasonable to him that he should be walking down a street at night and listening to a man preparing to shoot him in the back.

Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels have shown us Jack Reacher the retired military policeman turned aimless wanderer. They’ve shown us Jack Reacher the military man. In BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE, we see those two worlds collide as Reacher searches for those responsible for killing the members of an elite team of army special investigators – a group Reacher once led.

Seeing where his old friends are in their new lives – all of them involved in private investigation and security in one form or another – leads Reacher to some brief introspection and some questions about his life choices, showing an interesting dynamic to a man we’ve now followed through eleven novels. We also see Reacher interact with his former comrades, and the clear respect they share for him. United by a simple code, “You don’t mess with the special investigators,” the surviving members of this elite unit are quick to defer leadership back to Reacher as they seek out whoever has picked off their friends one by one. Particularly interesting is a scene where they try to use their knowledge of a fallen friend to guess his password; once they finally guess correctly, it shows just how powerful an impact Reacher had on them, even after they had long since left the military life.

Watching Reacher interact with his friends and colleagues helps add some humor to the book and brings Reacher out of his head just a bit – all to the benefit of the plot and our protagonist. Eleven books into the series, Child continues to introduce new aspects to Reacher’s personality, maintaining a touch of freshness to the series even as he stays true to the core of who Reacher is.

Child really dives into Reacher’s interest in numbers in this book, emphasizing a characteristic that was barely present in some previous books, but it does add an interesting dynamic to the remaining investigative team, as Reacher’s numbers-centric thinking balances the word-based thought processes of some of his teammates.

Some of the plot points stretch believability and the final twist at the end isn’t terribly surprising, but once again, watching Reacher’s process of piecing things together is so fascinating that the quality of the mystery almost doesn’t matter to me. There have been Reacher books where I’ve been surprised by the ending and others where I’ve guessed the outcome within the first quarter of the book, but at the end of the day, the mystery isn’t why I read these books. It’s all about Jack Reacher and his single-minded sense of righteous vengeance, and on that count, BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE has earned its place as another entertaining entry in the Jack Reacher series.

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The remorse gene was missing … THE HARD WAY by Lee Child

In THE HARD WAY, the 10th book in the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child, Reacher is sitting alone in a New York City diner when he sees a man cross the street to a parked Mercedes and drive away. The next night, Reacher breaks his typical habit and returns to the same diner (for the coffee, of course), and is approached by a former soldier now working for Edward Lane, a special forces veteran with a murky past who now runs a soldier-for-hire company.

Lane is looking for the man who got into that Mercedes the previous night – because it’s the same man who kidnapped his missing wife and stepdaughter. And Reacher seems to be the only witness to the ransom pickup.

As always, this was a speedy read. Child’s straightforward writing style and Reacher’s unique voice have become a comfort by this point in the series, creating a tone that doesn’t bother with embellishment or wordplay. It may not be fancy, but that voice is one of the series’ greatest strengths. The mystery this time around isn’t enough to carry the story by itself, and there really isn’t much action until the conclusion, where Child pulls things together and gives us the chance to see Reacher in action once again.

Reacher doesn’t often indulge in introspection, but in THE HARD WAY Child includes a few noteworthy passages in describing his star protagonist:

The remorse gene was missing from his DNA. Entirely. It just wasn’t there. Where some men might have retrospectively agonized over justification, he spent his energy figuring out where best to hide the bodies.

And:

He believed that anything could be reverse-engineered. If one human or group of humans put something together, then another human or group of humans could take it apart again. It as a basic principle. All that was required was empathy and thought and imagination. And he liked pressure. He liked deadlines. He liked a short and finite time to crack a problem. He liked a quiet space to work in. And he liked a similar mind to work with.

I’m catching up on this series, so I have plenty of Reacher books ahead of me, but I’ve found that I enjoy reading the series in short spurts. I read THE HARD WAY and the next book in the series, BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE, back to back and I think I’ll read a few other books before returning to the world of Jack Reacher.

I look forward to that return. This isn’t Child’s best, but if you’re already read the previous nine, you’ll be comforted to know that this is the same old Jack Reacher. And that’s a good thing.