Jack Reacher is back. But is he as bold as in previous installments? In the tenth installment in the Jack Reacher series, the tone and cadence of Lee Child’s (The Enemy, Tripwire, Without Fail) superb writing is there in spades but the kick-ass-and-take-names action that Reacher is synonymous with isn’t as prevalent.
The story opens with Reacher sitting at a sidewalk café in New York City. He sees a man get into an expensive car but makes nothing of it. But soon he is confronted about what he saw and agrees to help sinister former Army officer Edward Lane. With the help of Lane’s group of ex-Special Forces veterans, Reacher goes in search of Lane’s abducted wife and daughter. The catch here is that Lane has been through this before; his previous wife was kidnapped and he did what he thought was doing the right thing by contacting the police and FBI and letting them handle it. But the result was Lane’s wife found dead, so Reacher is cautioned not to use any help from the police.
The beginning of the book is very procedural and soporific. Reacher seems to be endlessly searching the streets of Manhattan, making the city a more important character than necessary. The atmospheric descriptions are deftly crafted, but the excitement level just isn’t there, unlike his previous novel One Shot ’s explosively exciting and compelling start.
Even though it takes a while to get going, The Hard Way does pick up speed right after Reacher has an encounter in which Lane throws tightly bound bricks of hundred dollar bills at Reacher. It is then that Reacher knows this no act, and that whatever financial incentive there is for him is really there; the bricks of money literally bounce off his chest. Reacher knows that he has to start from scratch - what they referred to as “the hard way” when he was in the Army. Overall, The Hard Way is a solid entry in the Jack Reacher series that starts off as a slow build, but then the intrigue snowballs into an exciting and fulfilling ending.