"#1 New York Times bestselling author Lee Child returns with a gripping new powerhouse thriller featuring Jack Reacher, "one of this century's most original, tantalizing pop-fiction heroes" (The Washington Post). Reacher takes a stroll through a small Wisconsin town and sees a class ring in a pawn shop window: West Point 2005. A tough year to graduate: Iraq, then Afghanistan.The ring is tiny, for a woman, and it has her initials engraved on the inside. Reacher wonders what unlucky circumstance made her give up something she earned over four hard years. He decides to find out. And find the woman. And return her ring. Why not? So begins a harrowing journey that takes Reacher through the upper Midwest, from a lowlife bar on the sad side of a small town to a dirt-blown crossroads in the middle of nowhere, encountering bikers, cops, crooks, muscle, and a missing persons PI who wears a suit and a tie in the Wyoming wilderness. The deeper Reacher digs, and the more he learns, the more dangerous the terrain becomes. Turns out the ring was just a small link in a far darker chain. Powerful forces are guarding a vast criminal enterprise. Some lines should never be crossed. But then, neither should Reacher. Praise for #1 bestselling author Lee Child and his Jack Reacher series "There's a reason why Child is considered the best of the best in the thriller genre."--Associated Press "Jack Reacher is today's James Bond."--Ken Follett"--
The Midnight Line is absolutely an experiment, and having read it I'm pretty sure I could reverse-engineer the specific challenges that Child set for himself in writing it. That he met those challenges, and produced a good book in the process, speaks volumes about his skill as a writer.
It's hard to say more without giving away parts of the story that shouldn't be given away up front, but here's one example of what I mean:
Virtually the entire story takes place in South Dakota and Wyoming: enormous states with very low population density and road layouts characteristic of much of the Mountain West. In The Midnight Line Child has the characters actually deal with those geographic realities: The tactical implications of enormously long, ruler-straight roads . . . the complexity of interpreting locals' time-and-distance estimates . . . the way you route-plan and navigate in a state that's mostly open space . . . and the welcome-to-the-West reality of 3-hour drives for routine errands.
And damned if he doesn't pull it off. The geometry of Wyoming and South Dakota are, in the end, like a character in the book.
What's even more impressive is that Child has at least four other aspects of the story where he's making himself play (more or less) by real-world rules, with no for-the-sake-of-the-story mulligans . . . and he handles them just as well.
That said, there's a cost: The pacing, the use of violence, and the way Reacher interacts with the problem at hand are all atypical for the series . . . and I can see longtime fans feeling like it plays a bit flat. I don't know that I'd want to read three more like this, but done once, and done well, it was thrilling.
The Midlight Line begins as a few others in this series do: something 'ordinary' happens, it piques Reacher's curiosity, and he drops everything to check it out. In this case, during a stop on a busride he happens to see a West Point ring in a pawnshop and decides it doesn't belong there. He buys it from the proprieter, but not before getting a lead on where it came from. He excuses himself from the remainder of the trip and throws his whole self into finding the owner of the ring. A few hundred fast moving pages later, he succeeds and then goes to work on the situation that forced the owner to lose it in the first place.
As always, Child's writing is terse and to the point, which exactly matches the pace of the action. The characters are nicely drawn (if you don't know Reacher by now, I don't know what to say, but the rest of the people are well done) and the dialogue is believable. The cool thing for me was that I learned a lot about the opioid crisis I hadn't known before, especially on the supply chain side as well as the impact on individual users. It's a tough situation we're in.
In sum, loved it and knocked it out in a day. As I said, classic Reacher.....
I've been tough on the last several Reacher novels when yet another Army prequel from 20+ years ago gets thrown in (Night School) or where the villains are just too absurd (Make Me), or where Reacher was distracted with a European jaunt (Personal).
For me, the best Reacher is the lone wolf wandering the highways of America armed only with a toothbrush, an ATM card and wearing this week's change of down-market clothes. This is the iconic Reacher, i.e. the Shane, the Man with No Name, Yojimbo etc. and on that score "The Midnight LIne" is the best Reacher in years. It is also surprisingly low on violence except for an extended street fight near the front end. It is high on the mystery side though and there are several of them along the way. It is thoughtful about wounded military veterans and the circumstances that they may have to return home to. It is thoughtful about the opiate crisis. But most of all it is a return to form of the Reacher that many of us were drawn to in the first place.
I am a big fan of the Jack Reacher series in spite of the 'Tom Cruise is not Reacher" debate. The character of Jack Reacher has always been a loner and because of that most of the time becomes suspect where ever he goes. This time he not only was accepted by the local law but he manages to not upset the apple cart too much, He shows a lot of compassion and understaning for this wounded 5 time Iraq veteran and even bent some of his most basic rules for her. Long time Reacher fans will find this an outstanding addition to the series and new readers will diffidently want more.
The book is read well, but is often unsettling because the narrator’s voice has a tremor. Also, although he enunciates and expresses the narrative very well, he fails to adequately delineate between the characters so it is often difficult to figure out who is speaking. The story also rolls out slowly and sometimes becomes too detailed, causing the reader to lose interest.
Jack Reacher is a wanderer. A former Army officer in an elite division, he does not like to stay in one place. His years of service to his country have left its mark on him. When he wanders into a pawn shop in Wisconsin and discovers a class ring from the West Point class of 2005, he becomes intrigued because he does not believe that anyone who worked so hard to graduate would give it up willingly.
The ring is small, indicating it was probably owned by a tiny woman. Reacher is a larger than life man, and he had graduated from West Point many years before, so he purchases the ring and is obsessive about finding its owner. The story follows a circuitous path, which often has some holes in it, leaving the reader wondering about how Reacher arrived in one place or another or reached one or another conclusion. Since he has no car, he hitchhikes and walks to his destinations. On the way he meets many different odd characters, some of whom are dangerous, some of whom are benign. When he finds the person who supposedly knows where the ring came from, he discovers that he has a very shady past. The ring and the people involved with it seem to be, in some way, possibly connected to drug smuggling, possibly as users, possibly as distributers or pushers. Often Reacher uses unconventional methods to glean information. He refuses to give up his quest to find the woman who owned the ring regardless of the obstacles placed in his way. He faces danger, stares it in the face calmly and survives. Soon he discovers that someone else is looking for her. Her twin sister has hired a private detective because she has not heard from her in over a year. Reacher also discovers that law enforcement has an interest in her and in some of the people she may have known. When Reacher tries to get information from West Point, he discovers some files, including hers, are sealed, but he does discover she received a purple heart. This leads him to believe she may be hiding for a reason. Together, all of the characters weave a tale about the search that takes the reader to unexpected destinations, sometimes without adequate explanation.
In the end, I was not really sure what point it was that the author was attempting to make. Was it to highlight the terrible drug epidemic in this country? Was it to highlight the terrible effect of war on our soldiers? Was it to highlight the horrific dangers they faced? Was it to highlight their bravery? Often soldiers suffer grievous wounds with poor recovery options. Was it to highlight their lack of proper care or the toll on their psyches? Was it to highlight the corruption that was found in unexpected places that placed people in danger? Perhaps some readers will find a plausible explanation for the quest and the end result. I kept trying to figure out the author’s point, but, ultimately, that point somehow got lost along the way.
I only had two real problems with the book. Lee Child's dialog has always been a little flat. Reacher himself must talk in a monotone and much of the dialog here reads like Reacher talking to himself (which, by the way, he does a lot). The other problem is that well into the book he didn't get laid. Not that that was a problem for me but he always gets laid and the list of potential women in this story was very short. I would have had a problem with any of the women it turned out to be.
Jack Reacher’s twenty-second outing finds him, at first, seeking the provenance of a West Point ring and wishing to return that ring to its rightful owner. But first he needs to find out who owned the ring and, as he delves into the mystery surrounding it, he finds himself embroiled in dark deceits and the intolerable treatment for returning servicemen and women.
With ample opportunity for physical encounters, Jack Reacher seems in fine form and the exquisitely-written narrative is classic Reacher from the first page to the last. Readers will find the building suspense and tension keeps the pages turning and makes it all-but-impossible to set the book aside until the final reveal . . . which is not without unexpected twists even though it’s simply Jack Reacher being Jack Reacher . . . and the poignancy of the unfolding story affords readers the opportunity to once again recognize and appreciate the admirable moral code and the compassion that are both an integral part of the man.
That important point aside, The Midnight Line is actually quite a good tale, well told. Shortly after spending three days in sexual heaven (Milwaukee?!) with Michelle Chang (who abruptly leaves him and the story for good on page two), Reacher finds himself in a pawn shop where he discovers a class ring from The United States Military Academy (West Point). He wonders why a well educated army officer would pawn her (the ring is very small) class ring. Reacher, being Reacher, with nothing else to do, attempts to ascertain the ring’s provenance, and in the process discovers a long supply chain of illegal opioid pharmaceuticals reaching to the badlands of South Dakota and southern Wyoming. As in any Jack Reacher book, he also encounters some disagreeable characters in need of a good thrashing (duly given). As a result of such thrashing, Reacher makes some enemies who spend the rest of the book trying to kill him. Fat chance! (We have read several other Jack Reacher books). He also encounters a private detective who is looking for the same West Point graduate.
The elusive graduate happens to have a rich and ravishingly beautiful identical twin sister (herein, “RBITS”) who has hired the detective to find her. Reacher, the detective, and RBITS join forces to search for the sister, who apparently doesn’t want to be found. When they finally do locate her, she turns out to have been badly facially disfigured while on duty in Afghanistan and has become addicted to opoids.
The final problem faced by our heroes is to assure the disabled sister a sufficient supply of opioids to last her through what promises to be a rather long recovery period. This they accomplish by commandeering a large shipment of illegal drugs from the bad guys, and in the process bringing many of those bad guys to justice. All’s well that ends well with Reacher hitchhiking south toward Kansas with just the clothes on his back and a toothbrush.
I like to poke fun at some of the cartoonish aspects of the Jack Reacher character, but I can’t gainsay Lee Child’s ability to make the reader want to get to the next chapter. The Midnight Line is one of his better efforts.
Thanks to Goodreads for an advanced copy of this book.
I did still enjoy it, however, and thought that Reacher's desire to find the owner of the ring, and once having found them to make sure that the situation involving its original owner is put right, is praiseworthy. I like the description of Reacher by those involved in nefarious proceedings as "Bigfoot" - makes me wonder if Mr. Child is having a bit of a side swipe at his film persona!
Not unputdownable for once, but there is still the skill of the author in keeping the reader guessing, and the title is really quite clever.
The best Jack Reacher books follow a certain formula. This story follows that formula, as Reacher sets out steadfast and determined on a quest to solve a mystery he deems worthy of his attention. Reacher is like a dog with a bone; once he gets a taste for something, he won't stop until he's finished. While this formula sets up certain expectations for readers, the twists are always surprising.
This is an entertaining mystery, but the story also provides some thought-provoking content. Child never preaches at us. These aspects are worked seamlessly into the content.
Child references Reacher's size more than usual throughout this story, and I couldn't help but wonder if this was an attempt to rectify the backlash about Tom Cruise playing Jack Reacher in the movies. Cruise did a great job with the part, but he is not even close to the physical size of the character, which upset some readers. I thought the constant emphasis on Reacher's size, particularly with the way people called him certain names, was a little much, but I figured it was Child's way or reestablishing the basics.
Overall, this is an entertaining and thoughtful mystery, with a lead character that kicks butt throughout.
*I was provided with an advance ebook copy by the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.*