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.

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