Review of No Middle Name – Lee Child

Posted: September 6, 2017 in action, Review
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Jaack ‘No Middle Name’ Reacher, lone wolf, knight errant, ex military cop, lover of women, scourge of the wicked and righter of wrongs, is the most iconic hero for our age. This is the first time all Lee Child’s shorter fiction featuring Jack Reacher has been collected into one volume.

A brand-new novella, Too Much Time, is included, as are those previously only published in ebook form: Second Son, James Penney’s New Identity, Guy Walks Into a Bar, Deep Down, High Heat, Not a Drill and Small Wars. Added to these is every other Reacher short story that Child has written: Everyone Talks, Maybe They Have a Tradition, No Room at the Motel and The Picture of the Lonely Diner. Read together, these twelve stories shed new light on Reacher’s past, illuminating how he grew up and developed into the wandering avenger who has captured the imagination of millions around the world.

Bantam Press

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Review by Lee Murray

The bio at the back of No Middle Name says one of Lee Child’s “novels featuring his hero Jack Reacher is sold somewhere in the world every 20 seconds’ and that they’re ‘published in over 100 territories’. So it stands to reason that a fair number of us are familiar with Child’s vagrant hero, the hard-living keen-eyed Marine Corps kid turned military cop. And true to form, this complete collection of short stories featuring Child’s iconic character comprises all the things we’ve come to love about the Child/Reacher franchise:

A bar. Pretty much every Reacher story has one, where the military ex-cop observes every misplaced floorboard, evaluating each shifty-eyed character leaning up against the mahogany before ordering a beer and maybe a cheeseburger. More than once he’ll have a chat with the downtrodden waitress, who typically talks too much, or perhaps says too little which, to an ex-cop, is a tell in itself.

A bus stop, train station, trail, or a road trip in a beat-up van. Child’s hero comes from nowhere, stops a few days, and then moves on to somewhere, which could be anywhere ‒ a fact which makes these stories both fleeting and fierce.

USA. Child’s writing reeks of America, its small towns, sprawling cities, and broken down street corners, and he does it better than most with dusty, weather-beaten worn-out observations which are so familiar they sparkle:

“The city was pitch black, still dead, like a creature on its back.”

“The vacation cabins were laid out haphazardly, like a handful of dice thrown down.”

 “They drove a long, long time in the dark, and then they hit neighbourhoods with power, with traffic lights and street lights and the occasional lit room. Billboards were bright, and the familiar night-time background of orange diamonds on black velvet lay all around.”

And this is Jack Reacher so we cannot go past the obligatory ‘what are you looking at?’ scene, where 6 foot 5 Reacher doesn’t provoke the fight but after weighing up the options and reminding us he doesn’t like running, takes down every two-bit thug in the vicinity. It’s part of his charm.

No story would be complete without the disenfranchised citizen who somehow needs saving, and naturally, Reacher, with no place to go and nothing to lose, is the only one to do it.

And finally, for every story there is the roundhouse kick of a finish that you simply didn’t see coming.

No Middle Name includes five Jack Reacher novellas and several shorter stories. Like Reacher himself, they’re good company for an hour, like taking a rest stop at a small town café to sip coffee and watch the bustle, before stepping back onto the Greyhound of our lives. Recommended.

A multi-award winning writer and editor, Lee Murray’s latest titles include the military thriller Into the Mist (Cohesion Press), and Hounds of the Underworld (RDSP) co-written with Dan Rabarts.

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