Not a Drill (Audiobook) by Lee Child, Dick Hill

Not a DrillNot a Drill

by Lee Child, Dick Hill (Narrator)
Series: Jack Reacher, #18.5
Unabridged Audiobook, 1 hr., 27 min.
Random House Audio, 2014

Read: March 14, 2017

Reacher sets out for the Canadian border, to make it as far north on this Interstate as possible, just because. Not too far south from there, he stops in a tourist-y town, a haven for backpackers, hikers, wilderness types in general. Before he leaves, a whole lot of military types show up and block access to the forest from the town (well, they try to — the forest is pretty big, it’s impossible to block access to the whole thing).

This gets Reacher’s curiosity piqued and he starts poking around to see if he can understand why.

I don’t want to sound bloodthirsty here, but not a single fight. No threat of violence breaking out. Mostly, it’s Reacher walking around and observing things before making a heck of a guess/deduction that proved to be right.

Dark, cynical ending — one of Child’s more political statements.

Hill was okay, not terribly interesting, but I think that’s Child’s fault this time.

It’s not bad. It’s just disappointing, short and . . . bleh. Proof that they can’t all be winners, I guess.


2 1/2 Stars

Night School by Lee Child

Night SchoolNight School

by Lee Child
Series: Jack Reacher, #21

Hardcover, 369 pg.
Delacorte Press, 2016

Read: January 5, 2016

One of the strengths of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series is the way it bounces around in time — sometimes it’s Reacher’s post-military life, sometimes it’s while he’s serving, sometimes you get a couple of books in a row that are clearly tied together, sometimes it’s impossible to tell what chronological relationship a book has to the rest. The central character is what matters — is Reacher essentially the man we met in Killing Floor? As long as the answer is, “yes,” the rest of the details don’t matter that much.

So, following a successful classified mission, Major Jack Reacher is assigned to a training school. Which is just a flimsy cover for an inter-agency task force with Reacher, a FBI agent and a CIA analyst. The Intelligence and Defense world is trying to adjust to a post-Cold War reality, looking towards Middle East threats, rather than the Warsaw Pact. An undercover operative has indicated that something very big is on the verge of happening — no one is certain what, where, or when — but they know that a lot of money is exchanging hands to lead to it.

The White House’s directive is simple: find out what’s afoot and stop it. Whatever it takes.

Since this is Army-era Reacher, first thing he needs is Sgt. Frances Neagley, who continues to be just about as smart, possibly tougher, and more resourceful than Reacher. The CIA analyst and FBI agent are involved, but it doesn’t take long for Reacher to go his own way (with Neagley half a step behind). The other direction makes sense, but this is a Jack Reacher novel, so you know he’s right.

It’s a race against time and unknown calamity in a tense and taut thriller — just what Reacher fans want and expect. Not perfect, but a heckuva ride.

The thing that ties everything together for Reacher, allowing him to figure out what how the target pulled off what he pulled off was both entirely plausible and entirely hard to swallow. I have a hard time believing that no one before Reacher (or the target) figured it out before them. Even in the moment, with momentum driving the plot forward at top speed, I had to roll my eyes at it.

Despite the presence of Sgt. Neagley, Army-era Reacher books don’t work as well for me. He’s far better as a nomad, answerable to no one (save the occasional employer), not under any orders or required to follow certain regulations. Yes, given the setup for this one, he is able to disregard Army SOP, but only so much.

I liked it, but didn’t love it. I had a lot of fun, and was engaged throughout. But it was a little bit of a let-down after Make Me. A mediocre Reacher is still better than so many books — and this was both mediocre and better — I’m glad I read this, and can’t imagine how anyone who likes a suspense/thriller novel wouldn’t. Still, Child is capable of more, and I hope he delivers that next time.


3.5 Stars

2017 Library Love Challenge

Deep Down (Audiobook) by Lee Child, Dick Hill

Deep Down Deep Down

by Lee Child, Dick Hill (Narrator)
Series: Jack Reacher, #16.5

Unabridged Audiobook, 1 hr, 43 min.
Random House Audio, 2013

Read: August 4, 2016

Ahh, this is more like it — I was afraid that I was going to have to give up on these shorts to preserve my appreciation for the novels. But Lee Child and Dick Hill pulled it off.

Its the mid-80s, Reacher’s a Captain in the Army and is called to Washington to go undercover as an Army sniper. Someone is leaking information from a Congressional investigation into whether the Army and Marines need a new, super-cutting-edge sniper rifle. The Army’s got it narrowed down to 4 suspects, they want him to narrow it down. Reacher is repeatedly assured that this will just be talking and that there is “no danger.” So, yeah, things are going to get dicey.

The suspects are four women on the fast track to the top of the Army — if not Commander-in-Chief (Child apparently likes the idea of women on the Fast-Track in the Army) — we get to spend a little time getting to know them with Reacher. His handler wants Reacher to try to use his masculine wiles with one or all of them. Reacher has a pretty good idea who is target is, and then plunges in, pretty sure he’ll have to come up with something better than attempting to seduce superior officers.

Interspersed with the early portions of this story are snippets of two different individuals heading toward the center of D.C. — it’s not immediately clear what’s going on with either of them, but you get plenty of opportunities to guess. They do a decent job of increasing the tension, though.

Reacher does get enough clues (naturally) to identify the leak — not only that, he’s able to uncover a whole lot more. Best yet, the book includes a fantastic Reacher fight scene (don’t get me wrong, I love it when he uses his brain, but the last two short stories I listened to didn’t have a lot of action.).

Some of Hill’s female voices leave a little to be desired. But I have no other complaints — good stuff (he has sort of a Stan Lee quality to his voice from time to time — if Child ever made him say “true believers,” I’d flip).

Good, strong story. Capable narration — a great way to spend 100 minutes.


4 Stars

Second Son (Audiobook) by Lee Child, Dick Hill

Second Son Second Son

by Lee Child, Dick Hill (Narrator)
Series: Jack Reacher, #15.5

Unabridged Audiobook, 1 hr, 27 min.
Random House Audio, 2013

Read: July 5, 2016

Okinawa, 1974: the Reacher family is assigned to a miliatry base there and is going through their well-established routine of moving into their new home. Reacher’s brother, Joe, isn’t dealing well with the idea that he’ll have to take a placement test to get into school; Reacher is dealing with a neighborhood bully; their mother is in France as her father dies; and his father is in the middle of a crisis of his own.

It’s a short story (40 pages in text), but it contains all the hallmarks of a standard Reacher tale, just on a smaller scale. It’s sort of cheating, taking a well-established character like Reacher and imagining the mini-version of him. But you know what? This was so fun, I didn’t care.

Dick Hill gives a pretty good performance, but his little Reacher and Joe voices are unintentionally amusing and cartoonish. I bet he’d be fun listening to with a full Reacher novel (particularly if it didn’t feature kids).

Not a great story, but satisfying. Not a great performance, but satisfying. Gets the job done.


3.5 Stars

Small Wars (Audiobook) by Lee Child, Dick Hill

Small Wars Small Wars

by Lee Child, Dick Hill (Narrator)
Series: Jack Reacher, #19.5

Unabridged Audiobook, 1 hr, 30 min.
Random House Audio, 2015

Read: July 5, 2016

Reacher is still in the army for this one, and is pulled from his assignment to take over for an injured MP. Major Reacher’s first job at his new post is to investigate the murder of one of the Pentagon’s fastest rising stars.

To help him out (and to help train his underlings) Reacher gets Frances Neagly assigned to him. This story turns out to be a great spotlight for Neagly, actually. She even gets the big fight! This case hits close to home and ends up revealing a lot more about the Pentagon and the victim than anyone expected.

Dick Hill’s performance was fine — there wasn’t a lot for him to do here, but what he did worked.

This one didn’t work all that well for me — the solution was unsatisfying, and Reacher’s reaction to it might even be worse.


2 Stars

Make Me by Lee Child

Make MeMake Me

by Lee Child
Series: Jack Reacher, #20
Hardcover, 402 pg.

Delacorte Press, 2015

Read: September 22 – 23, 2015

“We should get a cup of coffee.”
Chang said, “I don’t understand how you drink so much coffee.”
“Law of gravity,” Reacher said. “If you tip it up, it comes right out. You can’t help but drink it.”
“Your heart must be thumping all the time.”
“Better than the alternative.”

I’ve got to get that embroidered on a pillow or something…

I’ve said it before, I’ll very likely say it again — it’s really hard to write about Jack Reacher books after a certain point. What can you say? Reacher comes into a town/city/locale, finds himself in the middle of a mess (or sees a mess and puts himself in the middle of it), beats some people up, probably shoots some others, makes sure the bad guys are punished (in one way or another), tries to save as many of the good guys as possible, probably has a brief affair, and then moves on. Same ol’, same ol’ — told in a tight, fast-paced, almost always exciting way. Lather, Rinse, Repeat as needed.

Every now and then you get something a little different — he’s hired to right a wrong/prevent a wrong, we get a flashback to his time in the military, or whatever. But by and large the books follow that pattern. And for the first 200+ pages, that’s exactly what Make Me gave us.

Curious about the name of the town, Mother’s Rest, and full of theories, Reacher rides in on a train to poke around for a couple of days and indulge his curiosity. It’s not like he has anything else to do. He’s briefly mistaken for a retired FBI agent turned private investigator, Keever, who has gone missing. A colleague, Michelle Chang, is also in Mother’s Rest looking for Keever (who she’s never seen in person, obviously). Now Reacher’s curious about a couple of things, and he starts working with Chang to find Keever. The locals don’t like this and threaten violence (naturally, they need to do so en masse for it to work). Par for the course, right?

But then when they start to learn what prompted Keever to be in Mother’s Rest, things get darker than usual. Don’t get me wrong — there’s a lot of real evil to be found in your typical Lee Child villain. But on the whole, they’re nothing that you can’t find in many mystery/thriller novels/tv shows/etc. Every now and then, however, you get something worse. While it takes a really long time to find out what’s worse about the villains in this novel, once the pieces start to come together — scratch that, when you start to see the pieces, you can tell there’s something twisted and vile going on here. That hunch gets more and more intense each chapter. Until all is revealed and you start to wonder if you left Lee Child behind and wandered into a Thomas Harris or Val McDermid novel.

There will be extended descriptions in a Reacher novel that are this strange mix of repugnant and fascinating — whether he’s describing the mechanism of a particular gun firing, the way a certain punch will affect both the puncher and the punchee, how a particular bone will break, or what have you. But the symposium on suicide methods and Internet culture around them just might have set a new high (or is it low?). Riveting and horrifying.

This book also contains something I’ve never seen in a Reacher novel before. I can’t get into it, but that Child would put Reacher in a situation like this impressed me almost as much as it surprised me.

I’m not 100% convinced this is a 5-star book, but if any Reacher novel is worth it, it’s this one. There are so many of the typical Reacher elements that are tweaked, played with, or broken here — all while telling a heckuva tale, remaining consistent with the character and world. Long time fans will really enjoy this. New readers will want to get their hands on as many of the rest as they can. And all of us will get really frustrated that we have to wait 12 or so months for Jack Reacher #21.


5 Stars

Personal by Lee Child

Personal (Jack Reacher, #19)Personal

by Lee Child
Series: Jack Reacher, #19

Hardcover, 353 pg.
Delacorte Press, 2014
Read: November 10 – 11, 2014Someone took a pot-shot at the French president — and by pot-shot, I mean “almost impossible” sniper shot — it didn’t work, didn’t even break the “invisible armor” glass in front of him. But still, bad form, and people are expected to do something about that. Various and sundry intelligence agencies across the globe come up with a short list of snipers capable of making the shot. Disturbingly enough, most of them are employed by various and sundry nations across the world, but there’s a small handful that are just tracked (almost infallibly) by the same groups.

In this case, there were four unaccounted for at the time of the shooting. A British sniper, a Russian sniper, an American, and (I think) a French sniper (clearly doesn’t matter…minor spoiler). Each respective government gets someone to track down their potential suspect. Once upon a time, MP Jack Reacher arrested the American. So someone in the upper echelons of the Army reached out to Reacher in some cloak and dagger-y way to get him involved in tracking down the U. S. sniper.

Reacher has nothing better to do — no longer on his mission to meet Maj. Susan Turner (and wasn’t really given a choice, anyway) — and he owes the Brig. General. So “Sherlock Homeless,” as he’s been dubbed by the Army, heads off to Arkansas, Paris and London to track down his prey. The requisite purchases of replacement clothing, fights, and Reacher-ness ensues.

There was one particular highlight for me. There’s a London gangster, Little Joey — a giant of a man, makes look Reacher look like . . . well, like Tom Cruise standing next to the book’s version of Jack Reacher — Reacher’s initial internal description of him makes the whole book worth reading.

The most disturbing thing about this book is the constant, universal, assumption that governments will cover up, manipulate media and spy on everyone they choose to. In other novels — Gone Tomorrow jumps to mind as the best example — Reacher’s resented this kind of thing, complained about it. But this time, he uses it, takes it for granted — this could just be Reacher the pragmatist and we could get a return to form next time. But the way that everyone else — no matter their nationality or role in the investigation — assumes this, and doesn’t care about it, disturbed me. Mostly because I figure it’s fairly realistic.

The first few chapters are riddled with Reacher describing himself as “Predictable.” And, yeah, he is — both in his world and as a character in novels. He’s going to act a certain way, he’s going to shoot, punch, elbow and kick a certain amount of people. He will win the day, leave a few bodies in his wake, and at least charm a lady or two along the way (at his most chaste). Predictable. But satisfying. Scratching a particular itch for readers in a way only Lee Child can.

This seems to be a pretty divisive book amongst fans, for reasons I don’t particularly understand — on the whole the complaints I’ve seen about this one could be applied to 12-15 of the others, it’s just the way Child works. Maybe my expectations are different than others, but this one checked all my “Reacher” boxes and provided a few hours of entertainment.

Predictable can just be another word for Reliable.


4 Stars