Personal by Lee Child — review

This is the 20th book in the Jack Reacher series and, no surprise, it is just as terrific as one would expect. Reacher at this point is a retired military cop. But as he soon discovers, “you can leave the army, but the army doesn’t leave you. Not always. Not completely.” As I seem to remember from “The Godfather,” they always pull you back in. In this case, Reacher is sought by two Generals (one now a Brigadier General) who he had known in the Army and who he is sure feel are owed a favor by him, to assist in a new mission, working for the CIA and the State Department, one that has arisen following an attempt on the life of no less a personage than the President of France, attending a very public event in the heart of Paris. Reacher is seen as the perfect man for the job, and predictable in his response to the summons. But predictable is something of which one would think Reacher would never be accused. Except, perhaps, in this instance, and they’d be right.

Reacher is seen is the man for the job not only because of his attributes – brilliant, with admirable reserves of intelligence and strengths (both mental and physical, at 6’ 5” and 250 pounds), but also because he has a history with the man they believe is behind the attempted assassination, John Kott, a world-class marksman/sniper gone bad. Kott is one of the few Americans of which they are aware who could attempt a shot that was very nearly successful at a distance calculated to be three-quarters of a mile. The said history being that Reacher is the man who put him in prison, from which, after serving fifteen years, he was released one year earlier. And Reacher et al soon discover that for Kott this is a very personal matter – he has apparently become obsessed with Reacher, and with killing him. His higher priority, though, seems to be an upcoming summit of the G8 nations. When his attempt at killing Reacher costs another man his life, it becomes personal for Reacher as well. What follows includes some gasp-inducing scenes.

The book is replete with the clever lines and low-key humor, mixed in with occasional violence, for which the author is well-known, along with very human emotions from a man who is nonetheless nothing if not reliably lethal. The military generals refer to him as Sherlock Homeless, traveling as he does with everything he needs, nothing he doesn’t (the former being a very small group). He still abides by his golden rules, the first of which is “eat when you can,” followed closely by “hope for the best, plan for the worst.” The book is trademark Lee Child/Jack Reacher, very high praise indeed, and the novel is highly recommended.

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Gloria Feit

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