"Never Go Back" by Lee Child - the Lastest Jack Reacher Thriller
Is the Knight-Errant Losing his Lance?
Like many devoted Reacherians I have read all the Jack Reacher thrillers and without exception they have been fast paced page-turning stories that have almost read themselves, indeed more than one of them I have made my book of the year.
Alas “Never Go Back” didn’t quite live up to the high standard that Lee Child has set. Indeed three quarters of the way through I almost dumped it in the bin, for I found it surprisingly “samey” and just not very interesting, and worse than that, damned difficult to complete.
The plot revolves around Jack Reacher going back to an army base to see a serving officer, but while he is there he’s kidnapped, for want of a better word, and told that he is back in the army now – something apparently that can happen to just about anyone in the US forces at any time. And it isn’t long before he is arrested on some trumped up charges, and the major he was calling to see, a stunningly attractive woman, what else? and someone he has never met before, and she’s been arrested too, but on totally different and unconnected charges.
From then on it stumbles along without ever truly gripping the reader, in this case me, and I began to think that perhaps it was just me, maybe the knight-errant’s magic had finally worn off, so I glanced at some reviews and was pleased, or displeased, to see that I certainly wasn’t alone. Fact is, this is the least interesting Jack Reacher book to date.
I have even seen it said that Lee Child maybe didn’t write this one at all, and I have no idea if that is correct, but you know the kind of thing, employees writing in the style of Wilbur Smith and James Patterson and Dick Francis, and heaven knows who else, which may be fine and dandy just so long as that is made clear to the reader. If this Jack Reacher was written by someone else, then frankly, I think I could have done a better job!
This is the eighteenth in the series and mister Child shows no sign of stopping turning them out, but the next one, hopefully, will be better than this or some of those devoted Reacherians may start looking elsewhere for their night time reads and thriller fixes.
It’s hard to say what is wrong with it precisely, though I have to say I did find some of the gratuitous violence in public places, in this case, on a packed airliner, where the “baddies” suffered many a snapped bone, but were too proud or too scared or too stupid, to cry out or tell anyone about it, or even attempt to get the perpetrator detained, a little ridiculous. Can you imagine having your elbows or shoulders or whatever it is, snapped, and not saying anything? Unlikely wouldn’t you say?
Airlines are quite good at detaining annoying passengers these days, even ones like the Colossus, Reacher.
I can’t imagine Robin Hood, a previous knight-errant from nine centuries before, and one Reacher is occasionally likened to, snapping his adversaries limbs and getting such a kick out of it, and even if weaponry and the world has moved on a touch since the times of the wicked King John, evil hasn’t changed one little bit. Just made me feel uncomfortable, that’s all, and I have never felt that way about any Lee Child book before.
And after that, he and his girl went on a spending spree using credit cards he had taken from the broken boned baddies without ever once having the trifle inconvenience of having to put in a PIN number that Reacher didn’t have. Is mister Child really so detached from modern day reality that he doesn’t know that strangers cannot simply use someone else’s credit cards? It just can’t be done. T’would seem unlikely.
And then there was the odd thing of calling the characters by famous names, David Baldacci, Duncan Edwards, and I think there was another one too, though I forget it. Weird anyway.
The patience of devoted Reacherians has been tested somewhat in recent times, what with the ridiculous decision to sell the film franchise to Tom Cruise and his chums. Can you imagine anyone less suitable to play the part, six foot seven he aint, even in high heels, laughable really, and this book doesn’t help either.
I am giving "Never Go Back" three stars and I’m being reasonably generous at that, because it is still more interesting than a lot of the dross that’s out there, but hey, three stars for a Lee Child book simply isn’t good enough, and something that you would never have seen a few years back. I won’t make any cheap cracks about the readers never going back, but there is a danger that some of them might well not.
In my humble opinion the big bold knight-errant needs a pick-me-up, either that, or he should consider buying a retirement home in Florida where he could sort out all the problems of the wealthy widows. He’s be good at that, that’s for damn sure.
My gut feeling tells me that Jack is not ready for the easy life just yet, and I hope that’s the case too, and yes, I will be buying number nineteen, n.n.nineteen, as well, because that is what devoted Reacherians do. Support the man! Over to you, Jack, or Lee....
PS: Here's Lee Child talking about his work - far more interesting than my scrambled thoughts.