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The 13th outing for Lee Child's Jack Reacher and unlucky for him, the book opens with Reacher riding a New York R train in the wee hours of the morning. One of his fellow passengers has caught his attention. According to Israeli military training, this passenger ticks almost all the boxes indicating a that your fellow passenger is a suicide bomber. Reacher's carriage-mate is wearing heavy, bulky winter clothing despite the Big Apple's heat. They are carrying a large holdall, muttering repetitively to themself, whilst staring straight ahead in a sweating, panicky manner. A few checks are missing though because this passenger is a woman.

 

Reacher decides to approach her with a mind to halting the situation before it literally explodes. And it does, just not in the way he expected. With a mixture of guilt and sense of justice, Reacher, our itinerant hero, is immediately embroiled in an hot, political drama and New York demands some of his time for a while.

 

First, Reacher must discover what or who and how they managed to coerce a mild, middle-aged admin clerk to journey on a New York train in the early hours of the morning with weapons. What leverage did they have? What information did this woman have with her? Why this woman? But the local police force don't want to know - the case is closed. And yet, Reacher is approached by various factions. The Feds turn up and question him, whiel warning him to keep his nose out. A group of mysterious suits approach with a fake business card and warn him to keep his nose out but turn over the 'thing' that Susan the suicide bomber supposedley gave Reacher.

 

Only two names provide Reacher with avenues to explore. First, John Sansom, a presidential hopeful with a mysterious military past, and Lila Hoth, a mysterious but stunningly beautiful (of course!) woman who is desperate to help her mother find a lost war-time friend. Only one of these people will prove dangerous to Reacher.

 

It's no secret that I love Child's Reacher books. It's almost inexplicable as to why. I absolutely detest the kind of military-boyish-gung-ho kind of books that the likes of Andy McNab, Mark Bowden write. While Reacher is all about the military - his past, his present, his thinking, his memories, his tactics...- Child manages to keep it interesting and avoids military genre cliches that all but alienate most readers. It fascinates me, despite this being fiction, to read Reacher's perception, analysis, and solution to every situation. I enjoy his responses to people, a mix of humour, intelligence and importantly, a steely, unshifting, uncompromising style of stating exactly what he needs to.

 

In this outing, a first-person narrative, my preference, Reacher doesn't quite go it alone. Yes, usually he has a female accomplice, usually in sort of law enforcement who he will inevitably bed (who'd say no?!) and this book was no exception to that, but this time it was good to see another strong male character helping out Reacher, a character that was more than a match for him and hinted at a similar path/history as Reacher himself. It would be interesting to see Child do something with this character, possibly recurring in the Reacher series or even a stand-alone spinoff.

 

I enjoyed this book a lot, and it was inevitable that Osama Bin-Laden would eventually pop up in the series. Apart from him as the sort of absentee-landlord-baddie, Child has created a terrifying tag team. I know these kinds of books aren't for everyone, and most of us has a guilty pleasure, but I really can't beat Reacher as a engaging protagonist to go along for a ride with. Child's series is total popcorn, pure entertainment that is always guaranteed to make me smile and turn pages. Even if I can't get The Littlest Hobo out of my mind as I read.

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