Persuader – Lee Child
The Jack Reacher books by Lee Child are among my favourite thriller stories. When I first read Killing Floor, the first book, I thought it was awesome, largely because of its hero. Jack Reacher himself is brilliant in so many ways. He’s skilled both physically and mentally, approaching situations with logic and efficiency, and with plenty of useful knowledge. He’s likeable, despite not being terribly friendly or even a classic snarky anti-hero. And while he is basically the “lone wolf” character we’ve seen in other stories, wandering America and stumbling into adventure, he’s not a stereotype: there is more to him than that.
Persuader is the seventh book in the Jack Reacher series (they can be read in any order – there’s generally not much continuity). I don’t want to spoil the very beginning: it’s set up too well. Reacher does something pretty extreme, and he reacts to it in a way that seems out of character initially, until you start to wonder if he just might think in such a way after all…but, when this initial action is over, Reacher finds himself being employed by a dealer of some description named Zachary Beck, his family, and his criminal associates. There’s a number of agendas to deal with, and plenty of shooting, neck-breaking and strategising along the way.
Killing Floor is probably my favourite of the books I’ve read so far, partly because it’s written in the first person. While Books 2 to 6 are written in third person, this one goes back to first person – and for Reacher, that’s the style I prefer. I love hearing his voice, and his stream of consciousness: it gets his character across very well – stoic, straightforward, not to be messed with – and creates suitable tension at the right moments. And there are certainly tense moments: Reacher has certainly made mistakes and come close to losing his life before, but the third act of this book in particular really takes him out of his comfort zone. There’s at least one point where he even admits that he’s on the verge of panic. Overall, however, the story is interesting but not that interesting; there’s less of a mystery element to it than there is in some of the others.
Reacher remains a great action hero, with his abilities and motivations remaining compelling and believable for a man of his background. He has a good quote towards the end that gives you a good idea of the kind of man he is: “I don’t really care about the little guy. I just hate the big guy.” Zachary Beck and his family get a little fleshing out, making them more than just a stereotypical criminal and his long-suffering family. However, everyone else is really just filling a role: the generic good guys (including the obligatory attractive woman for Reacher to sleep with) and the generic bad guys. There is one super-tough bad guy who stands out, but he is still nothing more than a super-tough bad guy.
Again, some of the other books develop villains and supporting characters better than this – but Persuader doesn’t suffer too much for this flaw. When you read it, you’re not there for great literature. You’re there for Reacher himself and his latest thrilling adventure. And when taken like that, it’s a worthwhile read, though not the very best. Rating: 3/5.