Small Wars (Jack Reacher #19.5), by Lee Child

Four stars

In another throwback Reacher story, Child reminds his fans just how versatile his writing can be. When a female lieutenant colonel is killed off base, Jack Reacher is sent in to investigate on behalf of the US Military. Learning a little of Caroline Crawford’s backstory, Reacher discovers that she is working on a highly classified project within the Pentagon. Piecing together some clues, Reacher realises that she was murdered in an apparent carjacking of sorts, but many of the findings at the scene leave more questions than answers. Liaising with his brother, Joe, Reacher begins to get a better idea of what is going on, while county and state officials juggle responsibility for the homicide. Further investigation permits Reacher to weave together the final pieces of the puzzle, which explains the entire event, though the reader had an inkling all along. A great bridge novella for those waiting for the annual Reacher full-length submission.

Some criticise Child for making these stories, shorter and less interesting than the full-length novels. It is quite obvious that character and story development are stilted when 35 pages replaces a full 300+ page submission, though it is how Child can tell the story and keep the flow that makes these pieces wonderful. Their succinct nature, along with the usual inquisitive and sarcastic sides to Reacher that fans expect is harder to do, while also pushing a full mystery into such a short space. Child is masterful in this and those who bemoan it need only realise what they signed on for in the beginning. I love spending a rainy afternoon getting my Jack Reacher fix, which Child provided me, and I encourage anyone with an hour free to pick this up and delve into the wonderful world of Jack Reacher before he went off the grid.

Kudos, Mr. Child for this great short piece. Nothing replaces a full novel, but this will tide me over.


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