Jack Reacher only bothers those who bother him, or others. Directed where the winds, chance and his inner compass take him, Reacher is Colorado, in the small town of Hope. Twelve miles away lies Despair – motivated by nothing more than curiosity, and unable to get a lift, Reacher sets out to walk the empty road that joins them. All he wants is a cup of coffee and a bed, and he’ll be on his aimless way come morning, an uneventful moment in a criss-crossing meander across the continent.
When Reacher is refused service, accosted by deputies, charged with vagrancy and escorted out of the township back to Hope, he’s pissed. Despair, it tuns out, is a company town – dirt poor but for an enormous metal recycling plant, everyone is directly or indirectly dependent on its owner, Jerry Thurman. Reacher senses that there’s more than that, though. He thinks Thurman’s hiding something, and it’s something big – which explains the military post nearby.
Less layered than some of Childs’ other works, Nothing to Lose includes the elements fundamentally part of the series – a protagonist with a strong moral compass, a sharp sense of curiosity and a dogged determination not to be told what to do, sniffs out a situation that seems slightly questionable on the surface but hides a significant issue. He investigates, connects disparate clues through a combination of arcane knowledge and intellect, and uncovers the wrongdoing. He incapacitates the peons, disables the architect, and empowers the disenfranchised, enjoying a little no-strings interlude on the side, before returning to his endless journey. The later novels tend to have wider-implication mysteries (dirty bombs, large scale conspiracies) in contrast with the first dozen or so, and occasionally Child drifts from the far-fetched to the implausible.
This sounds as though the series is formulaic, and that would be an injustice. Nothing to Lose is a little further fetched than some of its predecessors, and I missed some of the subtler elements of the very best of his works, but what sets his work a notch above is the utter immersiveness of the series, the austere attraction of the clear-sighted Reacher, and the crystalline beauty of his writing. Those aspects remain, and make this series one well worth continuing with. - 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