It is a testament to Lee Child's skill that despite this not being one of Reacher's best adventures, I still couldn't put the book down and finished it within 2 days.
The novel's opening gambit, a hook upon which the rest of the novel hangs is unfortunately quite flimsy. Not to give too much away, but in order to get the ball rolling Child has Reacher act in a way that will have regular readers scratching their heads; an action which is so out of character, the reader assumes it will be explained in some clever plot twist later on. But it isn't, and as such is an unusually weak opening.
Once over this little hiccup however, the novel trundles along nicely leading to a customarily understated finale. Other reviews have pointed to this being one of the more violent of Reacher's novels. I have to say I thought it was pretty tame compared to say, 'Persuader' or 'Without Fail', but no less powerful for that. Other reviews have also noted Child's now formulaic style as becoming stale. Again, I have to say this may have been true leading up to this novel, 'One Shot' for instance was disappointing in its format and predictable pace, but I found the Hard Way refreshingly different.
Indeed, Child shows a rare descriptive elegance, stepping outside his comfort zone of dusty rural Americana to deal with a shiny, frantic New York, satiric London and the comatose Norfolk countryside with consummate flair and no little amount of humour. Being a Brit who has mastered the American novel, it was a real pleasure to see him turn his eye to his native country, picking up subtle idiosyncrasies that are all the more amusing for knowing this is his real home-town.
Not his best, but still a great read from a very talented writer.