Thursday, December 19, 2013

Book Review: The Persuader

The Persuader – Lee Child
The Persuader is the seventh outing for Lee Child’s wildly popular Jack Reacher series. The books are easy reads and always fun if a little formulaic. They start with the same basic premise Jack witnesses something he doesn’t like, gets involved and the problem always turns out to be more convoluted then he first believed. It is a simple formula and it works, if taken in small doses.
The blurb:
Never forgive, never forget. That's Jack Reacher's standard operating procedure. And Francis Xavier Quinn was the worst guy he had ever met. He had done truly unforgivable things. So Reacher was glad to know he was dead. Until the day he saw him, alive and well, riding in a limousine outside Boston's Symphony Hall.

Never apologize. Never explain. When Reacher witnesses a brutal attempt to kidnap a terrified young student on a New England campus, he takes the law into his own hands. That's his way, after all. Only this time, a cop dies, and Reacher doesn't stick around to explain. Has he lost his sense of right and wrong? Just because this time, it's personal?
Having harped on about being formulaic above, “the Persuader” opens with an original concept where Jack is automatically involved in an action sequence. He prevents an abduction of a rich boy and shoots a cop in the process. All is not what it seems of course and the next few chapters cleverly unveil the real plot that drives the narrative. 
Reacher is his classic self: assured, calculating and applying his military background to every situation. I have mentioned in previous reviews, that the stories involving Reacher that work best are when he is vulnerable. In this outing, Lee Child strikes the balance between Reacher being untouchable and then being at risk perfectly. 
As he is working deep undercover, he is constantly susceptible to being discovered. He has to be cautious at all times and Lee Child plays on his paranoia well. It also helps that the colleagues Reacher is forced to work with are not stupid as well. They may not suspect him immediately but they realise that something is not right and take an instant dislike to him.
The constant one-upmanship Reacher shares with Paulie is particularly entertaining. Paulie might not be anything but a jerk but he is a worthy nemesis for Jack. Especially as Jack realises his own limitations against the man.
However, the Reacher’s main adversary, Francis Xavier Quinn is woefully underdeveloped and considering he is the main reason Reacher involves himself in the undercover operation we see very little of him.
Instead, we are treated to several flashbacks where Jack meets a young soldier who investigates Francis’ actions. These are interesting, as the woman officer (Dominique Cole), allows the reader to explore Reacher’s more maudlin and reserved side. His memories are filled with regret, not only due to professional decisions he made, but also personal ones. Dominique herself is a good character and one that it would also have been nice to see more of.
The other characters are useful plot devices. Reacher works relatively closely with Duffy, a DEA agent who runs the operation and although Lee Child fleshes out Duffy’s character a little, she only ever pops in and out of the novel to progress the plot or manufacture a twist.
As always the novel is fast paced and interesting. There were some very repetitive phrases for example, the amount of time a character spoke and Jack Reacher “said nothing,” began to grate a little. The action however, was top notch. There is a great slobber knocker in there, and Child creates a lot of tension towards the end of the novel where Reacher finds himself in a particularly perilous position.
The ending is somewhat disappointing. The showdown at the end looks promising but then stutters before being resolved quickly. It leaves a sense of anti-climax which is unusual for a Child novel.
Overall, this is a worthy addition to the series. Fans will know exactly what to expect and will not be disappointed.
My rating: 8.3