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Lee Child
The Hard Way
Reviewed by: Terry Weyna © 2006

Delacorte Press
U.S. Hardcover
ISBN 0-385-33669-1
Publication Date: 05-16-06
384 Pages; $25.00
Date Reviewed: 06-11-06

Index: Mystery  General Fiction

One of the rites of summer is a new Jack Reacher thriller by Lee Child. The tenth entry in the series, 'The Hard Way', is perhaps a bit predictable — I solved the mystery before the brilliant, experienced, Superman-like Reacher — but it’s every bit as much fun as any other thriller you’ll be taking to the beach.

Reacher is in New York, living as anonymously as he always has, with no drivers’ license, no place to call home, no possessions except for the clothes on his back and the toothbrush in his pocket. And, of course, the shoes on his feet, which play a surprisingly large role in his story. Reacher is enjoying a double espresso when he witnesses something entirely ordinary: a man getting into a car. Being Reacher, he remembers everything about this event: the clothes the man was wearing, the make of the car, even the license plate number. But he thinks nothing of it until he returns to the same cafĂ© the next day for another double espresso, and a man asks him questions about what he saw.

Reacher finds himself drawn into a desperate fight to retrieve the kidnapped wife and stepchild of a former soldier now turned mercenary, Edward Lane, a man who seems to be addicted to adventure, violence, and wealth. He is surrounded by a group of men in his own mold, most from the highest level of soldier in their countries of origin — Navy Seals, Special Forces, the hardest, toughest guys. They’re soldiers with a bit of a taint on them; maybe they got a bit too enthusiastic about their jobs, maybe they are the sorts of men who were at Haditha or My Lai. And their toughness has changed; they have softened a bit in their physical capabilities, and toughened in their mental and ethical acceptance of extreme violence as a means of making money. This group is essentially one of bullies, with their leader the biggest bully of all — but one whose wife is missing.

Reacher investigates, but his investigation isn’t of the kidnapping alone. Instead, he looks hard at Lane, who lost his first wife through a kidnapping and has a dubious past and present. He watches as Lane pays a ransom without flinching, despite the large sum demanded. He asks questions, finds witnesses, talks to those who know and those who don’t. He picks up friends and makes enemies, as he always does, and doesn’t take any garbage from anyone.

The book culminates, as do all the Reacher novels, in a grand guignol of a showdown. The suspense will keep you on the edge of your beach blanket as Reacher finds himself alone against a virtual army. You won’t regret the hours you spend in the sun with this one.

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