Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels — tightly coiled thrillers about an ex-military cop who metes out lone-wolf justice — would be ridiculous revenge scenarios were the plots not so briskly convincing, the prose so artfully direct, and the action so satisfyingly blunt. Until now, they’ve all been pretty similar: Reacher encounters someone in trouble, decides he can’t turn his back on a civilian in need, and applies his brain and brawn. Bad Luck and Trouble is different; in an apt but trite phrase Child would never use, this time it’s personal.
Someone is killing the former members of Reacher’s old Army unit (its unofficial motto: ”You do not mess with the special investigators”). He reteams with the remaining members to figure out who’s doing the killing and why. Over the course of the book, Reacher does some rare self-analysis, questioning his choices in life as he sees his old comrades’ varying degrees of personal and professional success.
But Child never overdoes it: We fans really don’t want too much knowledge of Reacher’s motives. New readers won’t be put off either — the book works as a slam-bang yarn filled with Child’s usual terse life-and-death lessons. (If you want to find out how to fell an enemy with a blow to the throat, go to page 200.) Turns out, even when Reacher gets personal, he never gets mushy.