The villain in Lee Child’s Tripwire, namely Victor Truman “Hook” Hobie, is an amalgamation of Peter Pan’s Captain Hook and Two Face from the Batman comics/films. He got burned up in Vietnam and lost part of his arm which he replaced not with a sophisticated prosthesis but a classic evil pirate hook which he makes good use of when he tortures people who don’t pay their debts. Hobie is loan shark operating in the dark waters of American business. He has an office in the World Trade Centre and a Rolodex of henchman at his beck and call.
Jack Reacher meanwhile is bumming around Key West working security at a titty bar and digging swimming pools. A private detective looking for Reacher in Key West is killed by two shady characters who work for Hobie. Reacher finds the body and travels to New York to try and find out who the detective was working for, why he was killed and why his client wanted to get in touch with him. As a hero’s call to action is pretty convincing stuff and is front-loaded with intrigue.
Reacher finds that the daughter of his old mentor Leon Garber is the one who hired the private eye. Leon is dead and his daughter, Jodie, has grown into an attractive female lawyer. No prizes for guessing that Reacher wants to get his leg over. It’s a bit sleazy in places, given that Reacher has known Jodie since she was a young teenager, but Child takes great pains to point out that the age difference isn’t so bad now and that Reacher and Jodie both experience inner turmoil wrestling with memories and conflicting emotions before hitting the sack.
It turns out that Jodie’s father was investigating the status of an MIA Vietnam combatant, namely one Victor Truman Hobie, on behalf of Hobie’s parents who live in a limbo of mourning and unknowing. Leon’s digging about has triggered an early-warning tripwire that Hobie has set up and he goes about trying to stop the investigation by firstly killing of the private detective and then trying to take out Jodie and Reacher.
The thriller plays out almost like a stage play at times being very much focused around Hobie’s office in the WTC when it’s not following Reacher and Jodie around various locations in the course of the investigation and inevitable drawing towards Hobie. The Reacher segments sometimes read like tourist trips of a newly courting couple interspersed with visits to military records and autopsy facilities. Some remains have been flown in from Vietnam to be examined and that’s why a second tripwire is triggered.
Hobie really should leave Dodge but he sticks around because he’s busy making a killing stripping the assets (and clothes) of an unfortunate businessman who he is holding hostage in his office. His wife and their estate agent are also being held. It’s a complex sub-plot which helps demonstrate how evil Hobie is.
I’ve been watching a lot of Mad Men recently so the main twist was obvious to me from the off. That aside this is an excellent thriller and the character of Hook Hobie is a thoroughly fleshed out villain who could live happily in a Bond film. Thoroughly enjoyable stuff.