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Saturday, September 7, 2013


My rating:  *****

NEVER GO BACK (Pub. 2013) is Lee Child's 18th Reacher thriller and a 5-star read for me. Lee is by far my favorite author, so I ran to B&N and bought the book on its release date.  I have to admit the first fifty pages seemed a little off of Lee's usual stripped down, get-to-the-point approach.  The story starts sideways, in a 'telling' way, rather than truly in the heart of the moment as Lee's other books do. It's the only weak spot for me, but it certainly doesn't ruin the story by any means.  Just made me go, "Hmmmmm." I kept turning the pages because I can count on the author to deliver a good tale, and Reacher never disappoints.

The story opens with Reacher being dropped off at a flea-bag motel, after having been told that he's being forced back into the Army (but we haven't 'heard' that part yet). He's facing serious charges from a sixteen-year-old incident.  The Army man also informs Reacher he's got a 14-yr-old illegitimate daughter with a woman he doesn't remember.  Then we learn the woman he's travelled all the way to Virginia to meet, his phone-interest from three stories back, has been thrown in jail for treason and taking a huge bribe.  Which Reacher is largely sure Susan Turner didn't really take.  The rest of the story is about Reacher and Turner working to unwind the charges being brought against them.

What I liked best about this story is seeing Reacher's reaction to the news that he might be a father.  The way he interacts with the girl, and the way he's thinking about her by the end of the story.  It was interesting to see another side of Reacher, opposite the feral-ness he brings to the table in each story.  I also enjoyed the way the author plays out this phone-interest-relationship with Turner, the ebb and flow of Reacher and Turner's budding relationship and the way they leave things off at the end.  Classic Reacher romance, with a twist.

Lee Child has a real knack for coming up with interesting and unexpected story ideas--what Lee calls "the Thing"--that underlies the story's happenings, the end-game question that keeps me turning the pages.  He's also great at popping smaller questions along the way, giving us the answers like intravenous feedings that keep those pages turning.

I'm also a writer, and Lee is my top Dog, so I took the time to analyze all of the openings in the Reacher series, hoping to learn some of his secrets. What I found instead is that Lee is not predictable in his openings, he really mixes them up, as far as the 'writers rules' go.  One excellent bit of writing advice Lee's given the masses is to plug a story question in as early as possible, on the first page, and preferably in the first paragraph. 

But Lee broke his own unwritten rule in NEVER GO BACK.  We don't get much of a story question in the first chapter, unless you count the fight scene question of, "Why are these guys trying to run Reacher out of town?"...but again, that all comes at us sort of sideways, and it threw me off. 

By the time I got to the end of the book, I realized Lee is just up to his tricks again--never repeating himself, doing something different, breaking 'the rules' *again*, probably doing so while wearing a smug smile behind his coffee cup.  Keep 'em coming buddy, and I'll keep buying and learning and enjoying.