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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