Recently someone anonymously posted on this blog and suggested that I check out Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels. I had never heard of Child but as soon as I picked up The Enemy, I new I had come home. This, ladies and gentlemen, is my kind of book. A tough-guy, gritty mystery that keeps me hopoked from page one to closing.
Ironically, a few days after I began listening to The Enemy on CD (read by Dick Hill, a veteran of the audiobook world) I stumbled upon a column by Stephen King in Entertainment Weekly. The column was all about the false notion circulating in fiction these days that men don’t read. Don’t write a book for men, wannabe novelist, men are too engrossed in their football and steak sauces to pick up one of them silly books.
Hogwash, says Stephen King. Poppycock. Men read. In fact, King suggested a name for the kind of books we men typically devour. Manfiction. And the best example of manfiction, says King, is Lee Child and his Jack Reacher novels.
I believe it. Jack Reacher is the ultimate loner tough guy, a large, husky former military police officer who is part drifter, part criminal investigator, and all man.
I suppose part of my fascination with Jack Reacher is that my dad was an MP back in the day. Dad was mostly stationed in Germany when I was a kid, but he’s told me a lot about his experiences as an MP, and his description of the military matches up quite nicely with how Child portrays it, which is: highly political and full of self-centered pricks.
Don’t get me wrong. The military is full of valiant men and women who fight for no other reason then to protect the innocent and preserve freedom. Jack Reacher is one such example.
But among these hundreds of thousands of selfless soldiers is the occasional careerist, the officer who seeks power, the man who dreams of becoming a general and squashing those under him simply because he can. Jack Reacher refers to these men as (pardon my French) assholes.
And in The Enemy, there are a few such characters. Not because Child is trying to taint the image of the military, but because this is a mystery, after all, and it’s the author’s job to throw suspicion on a lot of different characters in order to keep us, the readers, tagging along, desperate to know the truth.
I picked The Enemy as my first Jack Reacher novel at random — it was the first one I found at the library — but now I see how truly lucky I was to pick this one first.
The Enemy is the eighth Jack Reacher novel, but unlike most, it takes place while Reacher is still in the military, or more specifically just as the Berlin Wall is coming down at the beginning of 1990.
Reacher is a young major and has just been transferred from Panama to North Carolina. It’s New Years. Just past midnight. And Reacher gets a phone call. A two-star general has been found dead in a seedy hotel room, apparently having died of a heartache while cavorting with a prostitute. The general, Reacher learns, is a married man and the commanding officer of the Army’s Armored Division in Germany. In other words, a very important person. Reacher’s orders: protect the military. Clean up the mess and keep it hush hush.
But the general’s briefcase is missing. And hours later the general’s wife is found murdered. Slowly Reacher uncovers a much grander plot at work that puts him in ever-increasing danger.
I won’t divulge more than that. I’ll only say that The Enemy is the type of book I hope to be reading when I’m ninety years old, the type of book I’ll never tire of. Jack Racher is the man. And if men really aren’t reading as some naysayers say, then please send me all the Jack Reacher novels you can find. I for one can’t get enough.