Fill­ing in gaps in Reacher’s life

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Reads - Re­view by DAVIN ARUL star2@thes­tar.com.my

IF ev­ery Jack Reacher novel is a movie wait­ing to be made, then from that per­spec­tive, a col­lec­tion of Reacher short fic­tion is a reel of trail­ers, clips and “mak­ing of” fea­turettes.

All things con­sid­ered, a suit­able de­scrip­tion for this vol­ume, which rounds up au­thor Lee Child’s shorter works fea­tur­ing his exmil­i­tary-po­lice­man-turned-drifter hero, pre­vi­ously avail­able else­where ex­cept for one new story.

Since we have a few months to go be­fore this year’s “Reacher fea­ture” (The Mid­night Line) is re­leased, what bet­ter way to kick back and pass an af­ter­noon or two while we wait than with our faces buriedin No Mid­dle Name?

With the last few Reacher nov­els be­ing hit-or-miss – Per­sonal was breath­tak­ing, Make Me was cool, Night School just okay – I have to say this col­lec­tion turned out bet­ter than ex­pected.

Open­ing with an all-new novella “Too Much Time”, the col­lec­tion stum­bles a bit out of the gate. It might seem that Reacher, in his old(er) age, is get­ting care­less, shoot­ing off his mouth and land­ing him­self in trou­ble af­ter stop­ping what seems to be a sim­ple snatch theft.

It could also be that the au­thor him­self is for­get­ting some of the “Reacher’s rules” he es­tab­lished for the gen­er­ally la­conic and guarded Reacher.

But at least I found most of the sub­se­quent tales to be grip­ping reads; all the sto­ries here were new to me, since I’ve never come across any of the shorter Reacher works be­fore.

The great thing about No Mid­dle Name is that the sto­ries take place at var­i­ous points in Reacher’s life, and in­deed, a cou­ple of the best ones are set in his teenage years: one at 13 and the other at that Sound Of Mu­sic age, 16 go­ing on 17.

Reacher at 13 is “an en­gi­neer’s nap­kin sketch” of the man he will be­come, but be­yond his phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance, this story – Sec­ond Son – was some­how the most af­fect­ing of the bunch.

Part of you feels some­what sorry for the re­cently-teen Reacher, in

No Mid­dle Name Au­thor: Pub­lisher:

the cold and me­thod­i­cal way he takes on a neigh­bour­hood bully AND solves the mys­tery of a miss­ing folder that could get his father up on charges. Sorry, be­cause you don’t see much of a child­hood lead­ing up to this point, and cer­tainly a hard-edged ado­les­cence loom­ing for Reacher.

Yet it is quite in­tri­cately crafted, the pas­sages nicely in­ter­wo­ven with a sub­plot of Reacher’s ma­ter­nal grand­fa­ther reach­ing the close of his life.

Equally fas­ci­nat­ing is “High Heat”, where the al­most-17 Reacher wan­ders into New York City and gets mixed up with the mob and a dis­graced FBI agent ... and also man­ages some face time (kind of ) with a no­to­ri­ous late1970s res­i­dent of the city.

The longer of the sto­ries here will hold you fas­ci­nated for a cou­ple of hours a pop, at least. The re­ally short ones are a mix of amus­ing and for­get­table.

In fact, if “Guy Walks Into A Bar” sounds like the set-up for a joke, well yes, it comes com­plete with a punch­line (Reacher style, of course).

Over­all, No Mid­dle Name isa re­ally en­ter­tain­ing com­pi­la­tion that shows Child spin­ning yarns at a can­ter, stretch­ing but not of­ten flex­ing his lit­er­ary mus­cle, to nicely fill in gaps that we never re­alised ex­isted in Reacher’s near-myth­i­cal na­ture.

Lee Child Ban­tam Press, short sto­ries

Photo: EPA

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