Child, Lee - 'Nothing to Lose'
Lee Child is a prolific writer, and NOTHING TO LOSE is the 12th book featuring Jack Reacher, a 6ft 5 inch ex-military man, who left the army in 1997. He is alone as both his parents and his brother are dead, and he travels light. At the start of the book, he is staying in a small town called Hope, 12 miles away from another small town called Despair, both in Colorado. Before he leaves, he decides to visit Despair, but no-one will serve him in the main town diner, and then the cops turn up to ask him to leave town. He resists, is locked up and then forced to leave town on the basis that he is a vagrant. Ejected, he runs into Vaughan, a female cop on duty in her patrol car, and they strike up an uneasy friendship. Reacher is tenacious. He is determined to find out why he was turned away from Despair without a clear reason. He keeps going back to Despair to try to find out what the town is trying to hide. His friendship with Vaughan develops and she gets caught up in Reacher's investigation. Several things are going on in Despair, and in particular there is something very suspicious going on at the recycling plant, which recycles army vehicles and spent munitions. Reacher eventually teases out the truth, from a mix of experience and intuition, and sorts things out more or less single handedly, before heading out of town.
Reacher is not the sort of hero who is likely to settle down, put down roots and start a family, or worry about people's feelings as a consequence of his actions. He buys new clothes when his old ones get dirty, and throws the dirty clothes in the trash. He is insular, determined, and single-minded, and has a lot of experience that helps him to predict how people will behave and win fights even when it is 6 against 1. He doesn't like being told what to do, and doggedly keeps on returning to Despair to find out why they were reluctant to even let him stay for a cup of coffee.
The book is competently written, but rather predictable. Reacher is neither likeable nor dislikeable, and not an easy character to grow particularly fond of. We all know he's going to survive anyway, as there is a new book in hardback. He just slips into town, solves a problem pretty much single-handedly, which might have started a third world war if left undiscovered, and slips out again. If that's your cup of tea, it will keep you entertained on a wet Sunday afternoon. If not, well it's 500+ pages of masculine posturing.
Michelle Peckham, England