Lee Child’s use of allegory in his latest Jack Reacher novelNothing to Lose
would make William Faulkner proud. Caught between the towns of Hope and Despair in Colorado, Reacher gets stuck when people want him gone which only makes him more determined to stick around.
Set upon by four louts in an unfriendly restaurant, the six-foot-five Reacher dispatches them in his usual efficient manner after warning them that they really don’t want to give him a hard time. Then after he shows them why by hammering them into the ground, he, not they, is arrested and subsequently found guilty of vagrancy and deported from the town.
So he, of course, comes back again and again. Although what he comes back to isn’t much.
Despair, as it turns out, is much like its name. Never successful, it teeters on the brink of existence as a company town controlled by the owner of the local metal plant. The owner, who also serves as lay preacher of the local fundamentalist church with a lot of the-end-is-near trappings, presides over a group of none too healthy, none too happy residents. Yet, like dogs in a manger, they want to make sure that anyone new doesn’t stay in their town and compete for their jobs. Or find out all their secrets.
Ex-Army cop Reacher is befriended by a local female cop, Vaughan, who has her own personal as well as professional issues to sort through as she works for the city of Hope and tries not to get crosswise with Despair or the local military outpost.
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With more than 16 million of his books in print worldwide, Lee Child clearly knows how to capture readers’ imaginations and has created a character who is honorable, more than capable and quirky enough to be interesting. (He has almost no possessions. He wears clothes for a few days then throws them away after buying new ones. He’s scared of heights.)
his book, I thought, bogged about three-quarters of the way along and probably had just one too many subplots. The politics will bother some readers; I wasn’t offended.
At its essence though, the Reacher stories offer readers the chance to live vicariously through a larger-than-life figure who is most of the things we wish we could be – true and honest and who doesn’t cheat to win. – Margaret Downing
Author Lee Child will be in Houston, signing at Murder by the Book, at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 8.