CriminOlly thinks: Reacher might be an unrealistically perfect combination of superman and genius, but he’s entertaining as hell to read. 4/5
Title: Without Fail | Author: Lee Child | Series: Jack Reacher #6 | Publisher: Bantam | Pages: 398 | Publication date: 2002 | Source: Self-purchased | Content warnings: Yes | Tolerance warning: No
It’s hard to think of a modern thriller series more successful than the Jack Reacher books. Over 25 have been published in as many years and they’ve become a staple in book stores and holiday suitcases. The premise of the series is dead simple but endlessly satisfying. Jack Reacher is a towering, determined, ex-military policeman of no fixed abode who travels round the US writing all manner of wrongs. It’s not unlike any number of 1980s American TV shows, and the episodic nature of the books plays into that. Each is pretty much standalone without a consistent plot running between them.
‘Without Fail’ is the sixth in the series and sees Reacher tracked down by the lead Secret Service agent in the incoming US Vice President’s protection detail. She’s Reacher’s dead brother’s ex, and now wants to hire the big man to conduct an audit of the VP’s security. Reacher calls in a female ex-colleague to help, someone who is arguably tougher than he is. Naturally, things escalate quickly from there and the book has all the twists and explosive violence you’d expect from Jack Reacher.
What makes these books as much fun as they are is the blend of investigation and action. They aren’t detective stories exactly, but they often feel like police procedurals, with Reacher interviewing suspects and witnesses and chasing down leads. Child does a great job of keeping the reader guessing and of slowly ratcheting up the tension. This entry is more personal than some, with the ghost of Reacher’s brother never far away and Jack’s relationship with the ex getting increasingly complicated. By the end, reader engagement is at the point where the pages fly by.
The thing that’s fascinating about Reacher as a character is that he works despite being a somewhat two dimensional superman. He’s as tough as any action hero and has the deductive mind of the most brilliant detective. He shouldn’t be even vaguely believable, but somehow he is. And despite his apparent infallibility and invulnerability, the tension never lets up. There’s no question that Reacher will win, but the how and the level of collateral damage are left hanging right to the end.
Skilled, cautious, and anonymous, Jack Reacher is perfect for the job: to assassinate the vice president of the United States. Theoretically, of course. A female Secret Service agent wants Reacher to find the holes in her system, and fast – because a covert group already has the vice president in their sights. They’ve planned well. There’s just one thing they didn’t plan on: Reacher.
Content Warning: Rape, Bereavement
Tolerance Warning: All good