REVIEW: NEVER GO BACK BY LEE CHILD

NEVER GO BACK

Author: Lee Child
Bantam Press RRP $32.95
Review: Monique Mulligan

Never Go Back: (Jack Reacher 18), Lee ChildThe last Reacher book, A Wanted Man, received mixed reviews, with many long-time fans unhappy with a shift in tone. You can read my review here (follow the link and scroll down), but here’s a summary if that’s all you need:

How Reacher thinks is a stronger focus in this book than how he pulls punches, which is a big contrast to earlier novels, and may disappoint some readers who revel in the gung-ho, knock-em-down action … I didn’t feel that satisfaction I usually feel after a Reacher fix; it lacks the unputdownable factor. Think of it as a transition book – cut Reacher some slack and see how he comes back next time.

Has Reacher had his day? Can he bounce back and give readers the “knock-em-down” action they have come to expect? Judging by the opening chapter, in which Reacher capably dispenses with four men sent to encourage him to get out of town, Reacher is back in fighting-fit form, which should have fans breathing a sigh of relief.

Reacher has finally made it to Virginia, after an epic journey from South Dakota (61 Hours); his destination, a sturdy stone building a short bus ride from Washington D.C., is the headquarters of his old unit, the 110th MP. It was the closest thing to a home he ever had. He wants to meet the new commanding officer, Major Susan Turner, for a simple reason – he liked her voice on the phone. But the officer sitting behind Reacher’s old desk isn’t a woman. Why is Susan Turner not there? The trouble is, no one believes his simple “liked-her-voice” reason and before long Reacher is in big trouble.

You’re back in the army, Major. And your ass is mine.’

Being recalled to the army is one thing Reacher doesn’t see coming. An accusation of a sixteen-year-old homicide is the next surprise. But there’s one more surprise that throws Reacher more than he lets on. Everyone expects him to run (and indeed, it’s strongly suggested that he does), but Reacher has other plans. The first is finding Susan Turner.

Those who love the itinerant Reacher, the strong, silent man with no fixed address, will find a return to form in No Way Back. This time Reacher takes on a loyal clan of cousins, four thugs, and the army, no less, while clearing his name and setting straight a few wrongs. It’s a cross -country affair as he travels from Virginia to LA with the help of a few brave souls, a random ATM (not the normal kind) and his trademark logical, mathematical thinking. He and Turner make a formidable team – she’s not afraid to say it like it is and she’s pretty kick-butt herself, despite her small stature. However, it’s less violent (although a certain finger-breaking incident left me cringing) and the body count is lower, so some fans may think Reacher is running out of steam. I disagree – I think he’s maturing, ageing and changing (as you do), and no less interesting than he ever was. If anything, even more so.

This book opened up a new possibility for Reacher – without spoiling things, I’ll just say the issue of fatherhood comes up. I’m sure that Reacher is not immune to the ‘What if’ dilemma that seems to plague the human race and readers are teased with a couple of those moments for Reacher (even if those words are not actually said). It only makes me wonder more why Reacher shuns close relationships and chooses the life he does. He does refer to his nomadic lifestyle choice at one point and gives his well-thought out explanation … but I think there’s more. The final paragraph is classic Reacher – in action and tone.

Fast-paced and hard to put down, Never Go Back, tells me one main thing … when it comes to Reacher, never say never. This lean and mean novel will keep the fans keen … and I’m among millions who’ll be reaching for the next book as soon as Lee Childs releases it.

Available from good bookstores and Random House. This copy was courtesy of Random House. For an extract, click here.

Bookish treat: I confess. I ate salt and vinegar chips while reading this. Now you know.