Former MP Jack Reacher is digging pools in Florida, fitter than he's ever been in his life and reveling in the sheer physicality and simplicity of his life. He's become accustomed to flying under the radar and, though not specifically hiding from anyone, is happy not being found. So when a stranger, obviously from out of town, asks him if he's Reacher, he denies it. Costello's a private detective, looking for him on behalf of a Mrs Jacob, someone Reacher's never heard of.
When Costello turns up dead, Reacher feels responsible - he backtraces the PI to new York, and discovers that Jacobs is the married name of Jodie Garber, the daughter of Reacher's one-time CO and the only man who really felt like a father to him, although he harboured distinctly non-brotherly thoughts about the far younger Jodie.
Unfortunately, Reacher's not the only one to have found Jodie, and it's up to him to not only save her from a man murderously intent on protecting his identity and his vast, illicit wealth. And if his relationship with Jodie takes a bend toward the carnal, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Tripwire is the third in the unabashedly escapist Reacher series - this early on there's still some filling in of background, accomplished in this case by Costello telling the anonymous Reacher about the man he's searching for. Members of the ABC's "First Tuesday Book Club" discussion about the thirteenth Reacher book, Gone Tomorrow, criticised the lack of characterisation, but for loyal readers the history's already there. That said, I have been reading them only roughly in order and had no problem, and there's certainly nothing approaching a series arc here.
Instead there's a fast-paced, action-driven, plot-based drive that captures what one imagines is the Every Man fantasy of a baggageless life, unencumbered by responsibility, family or possessions, where casually meaningful sex is available as required.
All of which sounds like the antithesis of my interests, and yet I've had to slow down from munching through the baker's dozen (thus far) of published Reacher novels. And I'm not alone - according to the author, some 60% of his readership is female, a statistic I heard on the ABC discussion above and tracked down. This workshop review provided a really interesting take on why that is, as well as allowing me to discover that my very genre-driven, heavy reading father's something of an anomaly.
One of the things I like about the Reacherverse is that women are as likely to be strong, intelligent and self-rescuing as men, which certainly makes sense now I realise that women are deliberately targeted as part of the target audience. There's also a keen sense of justice throughout, which is apparently something women feels strongly about.
Often learning more about the author, the writing process and the way a work is aimed puts me off, but I have to say that's not the case here. I think the Reacher novels are like the best kind of romance fiction - engaging, relateable but separate from real life, with a comforting and comfortable predictability that the ending will be satisfying after an interesting journey. And I still have ten or so ahead! - Alex
The Jack Reacher novels
Killing Floor; Die Trying; Tripwire; The Visitor; Echo Burning; Without Fail; Persuader;The Enemy; One Shot;The Hard Way; Bad Luck and Trouble; Nothing to Lose; Gone Tomorrow; 61 Hours; Worth Dying For