This is something of a Lee Child weekend. The Tom Cruise movie “Jack Reacher,” the big-screen adaptation of Child’s book “One Shot,” opened in theaters. I hope to see it and will let you know what I thought.
But first, I’m finally getting around to sharing my thoughts on “A Wanted Man,” the 17th (!) Jack Reacher novel written by Child, a British author who has met with curious success by writing about an ex military cop who wanders the interstate highways and back roads of the U.S.
A quick introduction, if you don’t know the Reacher character: Reacher is a former military police officer who has decided to give up house and home and regular employment and travel, by foot and bus and hitchhiking, the United States. From book to book, carrying only an old passport, an ATM card and a toothbrush, Reacher goes where the flow of traffic takes him.
He’s unencumbered by a house, family or even suitcase. He simply buys new clothes every couple of days as he ambles.
Inevitably, like Lassie and the Hulk, the ambler finds himself drawn into other people’s problems. And because he’s six-feet-five and a trained killing machine, he’s usually able to solve said problems.
In recent books Reacher’s been in the West, traveling slowly back to the greater D.C. area to meet a woman he’s had some dealings with. In “A Wanted Man,” Reacher gets a ride from two men and a woman traveling East.
Which is no small accomplishment since the ape-like Reacher looks supremely scruffy, with duct tape over his latest broken nose and sporting worn and bloody clothing.
But the threesome that picks him up isn’t worried about that. Reacher quickly finds that the two men are looking for more people to join them so they can escape the scrutiny of the law. And the woman is feeling especially desperate because she’s a kidnap victim.
The book is divided between the low-key but menacing car ride and its aftermath, as Reacher works with a reluctant federal agent to try to save the woman.
There’s government plots and double identities scattered through the book and an opportunity for the dryly funny Reacher to show off his combat skills.
“A Wanted Man” is good Lee Child Reacher fiction but maybe not the best. I’ve enjoyed some of his more recent stories of Reacher against a corrupt town or family a bit more. But good Lee Child is always a fun and entertaining read.
Let’s hoping it makes for good moviegoing too.