The library in my secret lair contains Every Thriller Known to Man, including every Lee Child thriller, so reviewing his novels is like riding a bicycle for me.
A bicycle with two seats and training wheels. And a chauffeur.
So let’s make one thing clear, right off: Lee Child is the best thriller writer alive.
Also, Lee is British, though he lives in NYC these days, so he’s got this killer accent to go along with the killer books about Reacher.
ONE SHOT is one of his better books. It’s not THE ENEMY, which is his best. But it’s not one of his worst, and his worst are still good.
Here’s the setup: Reacher is a loner. Six-foot-five. Two-fifty. A giant. He’s some kind of hotshot ex-Army major from the military police, and when you’re investigating bad guys for doing bad things and every suspect is a trained killer, you’ve got to be tougher than they are.
Reacher is plenty tough. And smart. He’s like putting the brain of Sherlock Holmes into the body of Dolph Lundgren, and then giving Dolph another twenty pounds of muscle.
It’s almost unfair to the bad guys. But that’s a post for another day.
ONE SHOT takes Reacher to Indiana, where an Army sniper he arrested years ago in Kuwait, for killing four men, has apparently gone bad again, 14 years later. Except when the sniper is arrested, he asks for Reacher, by name. Because they’ve got the wrong guy, he says. This is despite a rock-solid case against the man, Barr: his rifle did the shooting. Five people are dead. The police have his minivan on tape, driving to the parking garage where it happened. And back in Kuwait, he’d also used a parking garage.
Reacher shows up to keep a promise, a promise meant to keep Barr in line. But he discovers nothing is what it seems. The case it a little too good. There’s a puppet master, pulling the strings, who doesn’t want Reacher asking questions.
Without giving the ending away, it’s a rock-solid thrill ride. Are there plot holes? Yeah, sure. You have to suspend disbelief, especially looking back at the first chapter. There’s a huge gamble there. It’s kind of cheating.
But you don’t care, because it’s too much fun watching Reacher in action. He’s not your typical thriller hero. He’s not suave. He’s not sophisticated. He’s completely rough around the edges, and he doesn’t use spy gadgets or fancy guns. The only thing he carries from place to place is a folding toothbrush.
So, on to the numbers.
Number of beautiful women: Four. An ex-flame who’s now a brigadier general at the Pentagon, an NBC reporter, a defense attorney and a pretty redhead murdered to set up Reacher for her death.
Number of beautiful women Reacher actually connects with: One. I admire his restraint and good taste.
Body count: 13. Five victims of the sniper. Two other men. The pretty redhead. Four thugs. Then the puppet master. I may be missing one or two, but I don’t think so.
Overall: 4.75 glasses of bourbon out of 5.
Sidenote: Yes, it is true — and tragic — that Tom Cruise is starring at Reacher in the big screen adaptation of ONE SHOT. Do not like. Reacher is giant, stone-cold blond, a one-man wrecking crew. Cruise is rather short and hyper. Not a good fit.