“Personal” by Lee Child: A Book Review

No spoilers ahead.

Whelp, 17 years after the first Jack Reacher novel (the first novel came out in 1997 and Personal came out in 2014, so that’s my timeline), Lee Child’s 19th installment in the series is as bad-ass escapism as it’s ever been.

Jack Reacher is still 6’5, 250 pounds of face-smashing, ass-kicking and he’s still cerebral, thinking like a chess master ahead of everyone else, seeing what others aren’t seeing and getting the job done thereafter.

That’s what makes Reacher great and Child’s books great because with first-person point-of-view, the reader gets to get inside Reacher’s somewhat — dare I say — quirky, but cerebral mindset. The way he muses on certain things and the way he thinks is so straightforward and minimalist.

Which is what’s always attracted me to the character; he’s just a dude that wanders from town to town with only a toothbrush to his name and just happens upon trouble. And he’s so damn confident in his abilities. Taking on three guys at once doesn’t phase him. Taking on a dude that’s six inches taller and thirty pounds heavier doesn’t phase him. It’s all straightforward, fun escapism.

People can knock genre fiction and books like the Reacher series all day long, but at the end of the day, the job of the writer is to get the reader to turn the page and keep turning the page until there’s no more pages. Child does that with Reacher.

And in Personal, Child does something with Reacher he hasn’t done in quite some time: he takes him away from small town America and sets him in Paris and London, chasing a skilled sniper hell-bent on killing Reacher. I quite enjoyed being able to get into the nooks and crannies of the Paris and primarily, the London setting. After all, Child himself is from England, so he knows the area well. It’s like taking Batman and putting him in Metropolis or Superman and putting him in Gotham. It’s a different, but fresh take on the setting for Reacher.

It’s about the usual length of a Reacher novel — floating between 300 and 450 words, settling right in at 353 words — and it’s a bit of a meta form of Reacher’s minimalist style. In other words, Reacher never overstays his welcome. He jumps into the action, he figures out what the hell is going on (as one character calls him, he’s Sherlock Homeless), and then he gets the job done and goes on his way.

I thought this plot was one of the better Reacher plots in some time, too, because I just dig the sniper angle because quite literally, the kill shot could come from anywhere and at anytime. It helps with the suspense and the danger of it all.

If you’re a Reacher fan, it’s an obvious must-read and if you’re not, I’d recommend going 19 books back and starting with The Killing Floor. Not that you necessarily have to read them in order — I started with the sixth book in the series, then went back to the first and went in order thereafter — I just want you to read the whole series. It’s great fun.

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