PERSUADER, the seventh installment of Lee Child's Jack Reacher series, is perhaps the best so far.
On a Boston sidewalk, Reacher almost collides with a man shot three times - including twice in the head - and pitched off a cliff into the Pacific ten years before. Having a former colleague in the Military Police put a trace on the man's license plate brings the Drug Enforcement Agency to Jack's door. And what might your interest be, sir? Reacher, is it?
Jack, a former Army MP major that now wanders the United States as a near-vagrant always on the lookout for wrongs to rectify, finds himself aiding the Feds as he goes undercover to penetrate a fortified mansion on an isolated headland on Maine's wild coast. The DEA suspects that the mansion's owner, Zachary Beck, is using his importing business to bring in something other than Oriental floor coverings. And Beck apparently has a connection to Reacher's sidewalk ghost. Jack doesn't care about Beck or his rugs, but does have another old score to settle once and for all. And this time he going to get it right, or die trying.
The plot of PERSUADER includes the first time I can recall Jack feeling fear. Well, not fear maybe, but at least apprehension. Beck's gatekeeper, Paulie, is six inches taller, ten inches wider across the shoulders, and two hundred pounds heavier than our hero. Paulie's arms are bigger than Jack's legs. And he's surprisingly quick. Both you and Reacher know that, at some point, he's going to have to fight this monster. From Jack's point of view, that's going to be the dodgy bit. The reader savors the expectation.
Jack's my favorite Loner and Tough Guy in the Trashy Literature genre. But, his habitual physical impregnability becomes almost monotonous. So, the fact that Reacher's life comes within a gossamer thread of being extinguished more than once in this thriller is refreshing. Now that his vulnerability has been established, I look forward more than ever to Child's next volume.
Part of Jack's allure is that there's a hint of dysfunctionality to his personality. In PERSUADER, the reader learns that during Reacher's time in the service as an Army officer, he owned no civilian clothes. In an earlier book, it's revealed that Jack doesn't even know how to iron a shirt. Child's hero has some serious issues, which I hope someday the author will explore.