No Plan B: next-gen Jack Reacher

Who needs a plan anyway? Everyone on the planet must already be aware of the vast line of Jack Reacher novels, from the very first – Killing Floor – right up to the present day, with authorship duties split between Lee Child (not his real name) and his brother Andrew Child (possibly not his real name). Totting up the claims of the publisher suggests that at least everyone on the planet has bought one of these books at least twice – or something. And this book, No Plan B, is a good one. Make a plan to read it. Right now. No looking back. Enter the exciting world of short sentences…

Jack Reacher is a retired military man who lives mainly on his wits, his life revolving around the wide open roads of America and a folding toothbrush. Either trouble follows him as he walks the roads or he follows trouble. Who knows? He certainly does find trouble. One day the fabulous Child brothers might produce a novel in which our Jack takes up fishing, or golf, or maybe the excitement of origami, but as well as being both immortal and invincible, Sir Jack is also a man of action, so it’s unlikely.

The trouble he find this time is a murder. This is set in America. It is plainly impossible to walk a hundred yards with someone murdering someone. But this murder is reported as a suicide, and Jack decides that Justice Must Be Done. He always does this. We are never told the reason why. I’ve read all of the books – some of them twice – and I have no idea why he is bent on righting wrongs, championing the little guy and beating the hell out of anyone who tries to impede his noble pursuits. I have never understood why not a single crim ever understands that he is doomed to swift and violent justice at the hands of Jack, while at the same time recognising that the rifle exists and that the biggest fastest heaviest fists on the planet ain’t no substitute from a bullet fired from a safe distance.

But that would make for a very short book.

Needless to say, Jack accumulates a small but dedicated and resourceful crew, the villains are unmasked and defeated – not necessarily in that order – and justice is done. This involves a prison which is not as it seems and a small army of fatally incompetent bad guys. There is a lunatic in a subplot who steals a bicycle. Hurrah.

I loved it. It is not put-downable. You know what’s going to happen. And it does. Hurrah for the world of the short sentence…
Reviewed by Frank Westworth

Along with many other long-time Reacher readers, I gave the first collaborative authorial effort a serious dose of side-eye, and never quite got around to picking it up. Most folk who did give it the time of day seemed to think that it bore more resemblance to one of the myriad Reacher-clones which this series has spawned, rather than the real thing. But I was curious…

…and I liked the hook for No Plan B, so got stuck in. And was pleasantly surprised by how much like a ‘proper’ Lee Child / JR adventure it is. Bone-crunching choreography; great pace, and intriguing insights into little known aspects of modern American societal upheaval. If the brothers take turns at writing then I certainly couldn’t spot the joins.

It’s certainly not ‘vintage’ Reacher, mind. The character of JR himself comes across loud and clear but many of the supporting cast felt rather more flimsy. In the early novels of the series, Lee Child had a great talent for investing the minor characters with genuine personality. It’s their story being told, after all – JR is only the transient catalyst in their narrative – so it kinda mattered that we were invested in their outcomes. Have to say that none of the people in No Plan B felt that substantial, so the book was reduced to the bare minimum of ‘plot’ and ‘Jack’. Still a good romp, but missing some soul.

Instead of depth, the authors gave us unnecessary distraction and complexity in the shape of a subplot which added absolutely nothing to the overall story. About halfway through I started wondering ‘why is this important?’ and ‘where is it going?’ The answers turned out to be ‘it’s not’ and ‘nowhere special.’

So what did I think of the new incarnation of Reacher? I think the TV series probably does more justice to the original ethos of the novels. But this book ain’t bad – it only shows its limitations when compared to the very best modern thrillers. I wouldn’t be averse to picking up the next one…

Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
No Plan B by Lee and Andrew Child is available at Amazon


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