What Are We Reading: Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child

Posted on August 3, 2012 by in What Are We Reading?

James Noble gives us a primer on the phenomenon that is Jack Reacher:

As an editor, part of my job is reading multiple versions of the same story, often during a very short space of time. Because of this, it is very rare that I revisit books that I have read for pleasure – but an exception is always made for a Lee Child Jack Reacher title.


For those who don’t know (and I pity you), Jack Reacher is the man that men want to be when they grow up.  An ex-MP (that’s ‘Military Policeman’, not ‘Member of Parliament’!) turned nomadic righter of wrongs, he is surely the most iconic protagonist in contemporary crime fiction. He is a mountain of a man, standing six-foot-five and weighing around 250lbs, but possessed of a keen intelligence that makes the average literary or cinematic ‘gumshoe’ seem like a complete imbecile by comparison. Exactly how he acquired his vast knowledge of obscure trivia (particularly, baseball players and statistics) during a childhood spent moving from military base to military base, before enlisting and spending an adulthood moving from military base to military base, before mustering out and wandering the U.S. with nothing in his possession but a folding toothbrush, an ATM card and whatever cash he has taken from the most recent fool to engage him in fisticuffs, is irrelevant. Reacher is an absolute – like his fist in your face, there is very little choice but to accept him just the way he is. Indeed, one of the pleasures in revisiting a Lee Child thriller is that the reader’s recollection of the plot allows them to feel almost as smart as Reacher – and, to quote another fictional ‘tough guy’ (who Reacher would dispatch within the duration of an average sneeze), pity the fools who try to defeat him all over again.

Bad Luck and Trouble features one of the more personal cases in the Reacher series, as old colleagues from the elite 110th Special Investigation unit are ruthlessly killed by mysterious villains – who, clearly, have never read a Reacher novel, as they would know not to make such foolish choices if they had. When he notices an anomalous deposit of $1030 in his bank account, Reacher deduces that a friend is in trouble (‘ten-thirty’ being military code for ‘urgent help needed’) – more importantly, a friend from the 110th. With the remainder of his old unit joining forces, Reacher is back ‘in command’ for the first time in over a decade, with one goal in mind – to find the killers, and compromise them to a permanent end. As their slogan says, “You do not mess with the Special Investigators”.

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