The Fourth Man (Jack Reacher #23.5), by Lee Child

Eight stars

Lee Child has been developing his Jack Reacher character for many years, putting the reader through a number of interesting adventures as this man of mystery becomes just a little better understood. In this piece, Reacher hopes to lose himself in the busyness of New York City, but is approached by someone out of the blue. They know his name and past military work, but there is more to the story. Reacher is wanted by the Australian Government, as his photo was found Down Under on an apparent hit list. Not wasting a moment and wanting to know what happened to the other men whose photos appeared in the same envelope, Reacher secures the needed documents and proceeds on a massive trip across the Pacific Ocean. While there, he runs into a handful of unsavoury men, one of whom offers up an interesting clue as to why he might be on a target list. Tied to some of his military work, Reacher’s past and present collide in this great short story that allows the reader (and series fans) to see a little more about this man who thrives on anonymity. What could someone in Australia want with Reacher and how will he be able to slip through the cracks while preventing any ongoing worries? Child is a master storyteller and does not disappoint in this piece that is easily completed over a warm or cold beverage.

While many authors of long and detailed series tend to lose the momentum of their protagonists after a time, Lee Child has been able to keep Jack Reacher from going stale, using a few techniques that series fans know well. With an ever-changing setting, the stories remain poignant and fresh, while also keeping Reacher intriguing. His constant engagement with new people helps the reader learn something unique each time, dazzling the reader that seeks a clearer picture of his life. There is some backstory to be revealed here, though I leave it to the reader to stumble upon it. The story was brief and resolved itself a little too swiftly, though this is surely the dilemma of a short story where Lee Child wants to push his point in a dozen pages or so. Still, it was interesting to see Reacher so far out of his usual elements in stories and able to hold onto that unique approach to the world in all his social interactions. A great addition to the series and it helped satisfy me until the next full-length novel this autumn.

Kudos, Mr. Child, for a great Reacher short. I am eager to see what other adventures you have in store for us fans in the months to come.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: