Lee Child – Never Go Back

By the time we read about Jack Reacher in Never Go Back his broken nose is pretty much mended and he finally gets to meet Major Susan Turner the commander of the 110th MP Squadron, his old unit. Apart from the fact that Reacher may or may not have a teenage daughter, the book is not much like the second film adaptation of the same name starring Tom Cruise. For one Reacher isn’t a short-arse.

Reacher’s been banging on about meeting Turner like a lovelorn puppy since a few books ago – because he liked her voice on the end of the phone. So he’s quite disappointed to find that when he arrives at his old HQ to meet her, she’s actually been locked up in a nearby military prison for allegedly taking a bribe. Also Reacher is accused by the acting chief of beating a man so hard sixteen years ago while in service that the guy died.

Reacher can’t remember ever beating the guy up, but it’s his standard MO – the head-shaped dent in Turner’s, his old, desk is evidence of that. Reacher is also told that while he was stationed in South Korea he got a woman pregnant and he owes her child support. To complete the triple whammy Reacher is also told that he’s back in the army – there’s some technicality that says he never really left – and that’s how they can prosecute him for homicide. Hence the title of the book.

As it turns out, Reacher’s re-instatement as an army officer lets him do a few things that are very helpful during the inevitable investigation into the wrongful accusations against himself and Turner. As well as clearing their names, he also intends to meet his fifteen-year-old daughter Samantha and more importantly see if he recognises her mother. I’ll try to avoid spoilers here, but this one’s so obvious that I won’t bother (and if you’ve seen the film you’ll know the outcome anyway).

Reacher manages to help Turner escape from where she is held and surprise surprise they find the time to end up in bed together, despite various parties being on the hunt for them. The couple end up hitching to West Virginia where Reacher spots a fire in the night and asks to be dropped off. A meth lab is on fire and they help themselves, very conveniently, to a load of money and a fancy sports car which the owner won’t be needing anymore since, like Luke’s uncle and auntie in Star Wars, he’s toast.

There’s some action with local hicks and a whole load of theorising about who has tried to frame both Reacher and Turner, and why. There’s a link back to Afghanistan, where two of Turner’s men have been murdered, and a local farmer who seems to be a very low-level person of interest in the grand scheme of things. Along the journey toward a resolution, Reacher manages to take out a number of bad guys in his usual visceral bone-crunching style.

They find Samantha, Reacher talks to her and realises she’s not his daughter, and at this point the FBI agent who is trailing him and Turner catches up with them. Reacher manages to convince him to help them out in trying to uncover what’s really going on and he’s helped by the discovery of the fact that both the fatherhood and the murder case were faked. Reacher is therefore super-conveniently free of any charges, apart from the fact he’s helping Turner who is still a suspect in an ongoing investigation. They are given a deadline to figure stuff out and as Lee Child reaches his contractually obligated page-count the action speeds up and resolution is provided without Reacher really having to lift a finger.

Sure, the monitoring of Reacher’s progress by the two bosses of the criminal gang at the centre of the story leads to their eventual demise, but there’s no real hands-on action at the end of the book. Our heroes out on the street watching the muzzle flashes of gunshots inside a house seems like a bit of an anti-climax. And of course Reacher and Turner agree to hit the Bond-esque relationship reset button so all loose ends are neatly tied up.

(image from pixabay)

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