No Middle Name: The Complete Collected Jack Reacher Short Stories, by Lee Child

Eight stars

I always enjoy when something Reacher pops up on my radar, particularly when it has not been sullied by Tom Cruise. In this recently released collection, Lee Child has amassed a number of previously published short stories and compacted them between two covers. Some I have read and enjoyed, others I am discovering for the first time. I have decided not to review each individual piece, but to offer an overarching summary of general sentiments.

Child shows off Jack Reacher in an interesting light within this collection, tapping into some of his early years as a military brat through to his itinerant ways, best known to readers throughout much of the series. Reacher is depicted as a precocious and highly attentive youth, even when still under the watchful eye of his parents and begins his independent ways soon thereafter, ending up in New York during the Son of Sam killings in the late 1970s. From there, the reader sees Reacher in the middle of the career within the military, showing off his MP skills and honed interrogation techniques, which have served him well. Some of the latter stories depict Reacher as stumbling upon something of interest, a theme found in many of the series novels. It appears that no matter his age or where he is located, Reacher seems to have a way with the ladies. Baffling enough, he is always able to extract himself from their grasp as he continues his travels around the world. A wonderful collection of stories that show Reacher as he progressed through life. Ideal for the hardcore Reacher fan (though some may have read all these tales), though it also might be a decent piece for those who wish to discover the man with No Middle Name!

Lee Child has spent two decades honing his Jack Reacher character, developing both an ongoing story of his random wanderings into small towns across America and significant pieces of the man’s backstory. Reacher is a complex character, even if he prides himself for not having a large historical footprint. Child has created this collection to show off the fifty-seven years of Reacher’s life through the stories that readers have come to love. Each story can and does stand on its own, but series fans will love noticing the development in the character over time. Seeing Reacher develop from teenager through to his current stage was best shown by placing the stories in chronological (age, not publication) order. Longtime series fans are used to Child’s flashback novels and stories, some of whom create tension when reviews pile up. That said, this collection offers something for everyone while we wait for the next full-length novel.

Kudos, Mr. Child for this fabulous collection of stories that keep Reacher fans happy. I am excited to see what awaits us in the coming months. 

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Matchup, edited by Lee Child

NIne stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Lee Child (editor), and Simon & Schuster for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

When asked to take the editorial lead in the latest International Thriller Writers (ITW) anthology, Lee Child jumped at the opportunity. What might be daunting for some–herding twenty-two well-known authors together like feral cats–turned out to be a great pleasure for Child and, in the end, the reader. This compilation pits writers into teams of two to concoct a wonderful series of short stories. Each author was asked to bring their ‘A’ game and a favourite protagonist, in hopes that having to share the page (and the locale of each story), which ended up being a little more difficult than simply parachuting characters together. Child’s other hurdle was to place a male and female author together, a ‘matchup’ of epic proportions, to see how they could work together. The end result saw readers treated to the ‘what if’ of forensic anthropologist Tempe Brennan working alongside ever-travelling Jack Reacher; bibliophile Cotton Malone living history and the standing stones through which Claire Randall met her beloved in Scotland; and Philly lawyer, Bennie Rosato, crossing paths with the King of Sarcastic Comments, John Corey. Where else would you find a Minnesota cop who wants to fish in the middle of a major crime bust at a cabin in Montana, or a woman who speaks to the dead through their buried bones outside of Alexandria? Child is able not only to find the ideal matches for this anthology, but also sends the reader into a tailspin as they are presented with a number of never before thought-out possible storylines. Child is masterful, though a great deal of praise must go to all who took the time and effort to pen eleven wonderful stories. Surely something of a summer gift for the reader to enjoy poolside.

I have always enjoyed collections such as these, especially when the ITW gang comes out to play. There are so many out there and since the genre is so wide, one is never entirely sure what to expect. Child presents these stories in no particularly themed order, but the end result turns out to be something that is high octane from start to finish. While I tend to gravitate to the crime and legal thrillers, there are many that push outside of my comfort zone, though I cannot find a single story that did not captivate me, even when the narrative flirted with the paranormal. I have a large ‘to be read’ list, but reading these stories has left me wondering if I ought to check out some new authors and their characters, as they intrigued me, even during the brief encounter of a short story. Pitting sub-genres against one another and character professions that were sure to clash, these authors ironed out the difficulties and left the reader with a polished product, perfectly balanced and ready for easy literary consumption. While I could have read these stories for hundreds of more pages, I realise that there is a limit to the number of submissions and authors used, though I am eager to see what is next for the ITW in the years to come.

Kudos, Mr. Child, et al. for such a great anthology. I am hooked to these collections and love the cross-section of story writer that emerges from these classic matchups. Please keep sharpening your skills for the next editorial call out that is sure to arise.