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4.0 out of 5 stars Mysteries and Reunions Surprise Reacher, June 11 2007
This review is from: Bad Luck and Trouble: A Jack Reacher Novel (Hardcover)
If there can be a fictional character that epitomizes lives in the moment, that character has to be Jack Reacher. Since leaving the MPs, he's drifted along. But when something gets his attention, he's a spring-loaded weapon.

In Bad Luck and Trouble, Lee Child, shows us other dimensions of Reacher . . . when the immediate solutions aren't obvious, while working with part of a former MP team, and connecting with a woman he's been interested in for a long time. That doesn't turn Reacher into Robert Parker's Jesse Stone, but it does round out his character in ways that are promising for future books.

In the previous books, Reacher's drifter status was symbolized by traveling with only a travel toothbrush and the clothes he is wearing. Reacher finds that he has to modernize himself a bit by also carrying his passport and an ATM card. It's harder to get to his money otherwise.

As the book opens, Reacher finds an unexpected amount in his bank account. He quickly checks to see if it's an error . . . since he's down to his last few bucks. The bank confirms that there's no error and he persuades the bank manager to help him find out who made the deposits. Bingo, it's a former MP colleague, Frances Neagley, and the amount transmits extra meaning to Reacher. He calls Frances and is told by her assistant to find her in LA. Reacher uses his ATM card to buy a ticket and heads to where he would go if he were staying in LA.

What's the fuss? One of the old team, Calvin Franz, has been murdered. Frances has been trying to reach the remaining members of the team with no success. Immediately, Reacher and Frances wonder if someone is targeting the team.

From there, the story develops along the lines of trying to solve the murder of Franz, locating the rest of the old team, and dealing with the mystery they uncover that appears to have caused Franz's death.

Although the story certainly has action sequences, there's much more investigating than action in the book. A lot of the book's appeal depends on Reacher finding himself in luxurious surroundings (which makes him acutely uncomfortable) and in seeing him take on a formal leadership role instead of acting as a lone ranger. It's also fun to see how his former colleagues respond to him.

To me, the book had two major weaknesses. First, there are a number of apparent errors in technical matters (here are a few examples: The corporate headquarters of a defense contractor has little security; Lake Arrowhead is not on the fast route between Victorville and LA; and the final two ATM deposits he receives seem too small). Those errors destroy your sense of being in the story because you start puzzling over the inconsistencies rather than thinking about the story. Second, Reacher is compulsively translating every number into several different measurements and dimensions. It gets old pretty quickly. If Reacher were really that fascinated with numbers, wouldn't he spend some time every day with activities that intrigue number lovers? It undermines the character portrait to have him ignore that element.

The ultimate mystery itself is a minor weakness in the book. Reacher repeatedly fails to follow up on clues that would have resolved the mystery much sooner. Why would a crack investigator be so sloppy, especially when he had lots of people to help him?
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Donald Mitchell

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