Better off Dead (Jack Reacher #26), by Lee Child and Andrew Child

Seven stars

The new collaborative effort of Lee and Andrew Child has taken the Jack Reacher series into some interesting domains. Long the work of Lee Child, Reacher has developed quite a following, perhaps most of all because one never knows where he will go or who is around to meet. While walking west, Reacher comes upon a woman in her Jeep, unconscious after striking a tree. It’s Michaela Fenton, whose past is impressive to Reacher, as well as her story. Fenton is looking for her brother, a man who may have locked horns with a terribly troublesome weapons dealer. Reacher agrees to help locate him, as long as it does not interfere with his nomadic march across the country, pacing himself as best he can. The Child brothers do a wonderful job yet again and keep the action flowing throughout this novel.

Jack Reacher is a man free from commitment, just the way he likes it. As he walks across the open desert, he comes across a woman who’s ploughed herself into the only tree for miles. Michaela Fenton is grateful to have Reacher’s help, but also wants him to hear about what’s she’s been doing. A former veteran, Fenton has joined the FBI and is looking for her twin brother, Michael. It would seem he’s got himself involved with a local weapons dealer, a ruthless man with little in the world he fears. Yet, this guy has never met Reacher, which is sure to be an adventure unto itself.

It would seem the ruthless Dendoncker has taken over the local town and turned it into his head of operations, which Reacher cannot let continue. There’s nothing like a confrontation to get Reacher’s blood boiling, so off he goes to investigate. Fuelled by a desire to know the whereabouts of Michael Fenton, Reacher heads to town and locks horns with a man few would dare cross, but that’s the charm Jack seems to have.

To snare Dendoncker, Reacher will have to play his cards right. However, with the knowledge that Michael could still be alive, Reacher has all the impetus he needs to move forward. As he pries things open a little more, Reacher discovers a deadly weapon that Dendoncker plans to use, which could have significant blowback. Reacher’s invested and ready to do all in his power to ensure Dendoncker is stopped before it’s too late. A brilliant addition to the Reacher collection, though there’s something different about this one, as the series continues to expand.

When a series has been around for so long, it risks getting stale or overly repetitive. Lee Child keeps that from happening by using Reacher’s nomadic nature to always provide new locales. The situations follow suit and are usually unique and yet on point. Working alongside his brother, Andrew (who has somehow decided to take the ‘Child’ surname, after years writing under ‘Gross’), Lee Child pens this new and equally intriguing novel that places his protagonist in new dangers. With a strong plot and some different writing styles, the series keeps moving along and impressing readers.

Jack Reacher is an anomaly from many of the protagonists I have met over the years. His lack of stability and need for a nomadic life help shape him, providing little character development. Reacher is just Reacher and no one can contain him or fit him into any specific type. He lives life in the moment and is always looking for danger to add to his daily goings-on. This was nothing different, as he finds ways to impress and draw blood in the same breath. Less a romantic entanglement than eagerness to hell a fellow soldier, Reacher does all he can to be a hero once again.

Since the series turned into a collaboration, there has been a shift, though some may see it as minute. While the narrative flows well, there was something off when comparing it to other novels. It was when I clued in to the first person direction of the novel, rather than the usual third person recounting, that things clicked. Reacher allowed the reader into his head, which has always been closed off. The plot worked well and those Reacher met on his adventure surely added to the story as well. I enjoyed how things evolved and can see the Child brothers work well as collaborators, even though I was thrown off by some of the writing. I will keep reading the series as long as Jack Reacher has somewhere to go and people to see. Which, based on the series to date, could be a long and detailed list!

Kudos, Messrs. Child, for another winner. I can only guess where things are headed, but the surprise is part of the allure.