Book Review: "No Middle Name" by Lee Child (part 2)

The last seven stories in “No Middle Name” by Lee Child only take up the last third of the book. The tales are shorter, but they are no less thrilling. I could not put this book down. I hated it when I had to in order to eat or sleep or work.

The sixth story in this collection is “James Penny’s New Identity.” We don’t really see Reacher in this one until the last bit of the story. Mostly, it’s about this guy that got canned, burned his house down, went on the run, got his car stolen, and is up shit creek without a paddle.

In comes Jack Reacher. And he does what he does—shocks us and finishes with a finale that leaves us breathless. Great story. Oh, man. Just…yes. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest when I finished this one.

The seventh is called “Everyone Talks.” It is different from the others in that the first person perspective that we see is that of a female police detective. She’s investigating a shooting. Jack Reacher was the victim. His flashbacks move into a third person perspective from only his POV. I like this shift. It helps to add suspense.

Like when she’s questioning him in the hospital. He gives her—and us—just enough of his story to leave us wanting more. Then he’s all like—I’m tired so you can leave now. But she’s hooked. Yeah. So am I.

As usual, no spoilers. But at the end of this story, I was left thinking—you clever devil.

Story number eight is “Not a Drill.” Reacher is wandering. But though he’s not doing a lot, he’s laying the groundwork. He’s building the tale. And he’s building the suspense with—“One thing leads to another.” He keeps saying it. Seems like it maybe wouldn’t work, right? But it totally does.

He catches a ride from some hikers and winds up staying the night near the trailhead where they’ll be hiking from. Problem is, the trail is closed in the morning. The gathered hikers are all mad and many of them leave. But the two that gave Reacher a ride have not left—they’ve just disappeared.

I really enjoyed this story. It’s got some conspiracy, some lovely nature descriptions, and of course, the classic wit and brilliance of Jack Reacher.

“Maybe They Have a Tradition” is the ninth story in the book. It’s Christmas Eve and Reacher meets a flight attendant in a bar. She offers him a free flight to Amsterdam. He’s got nothing else going on, so he says, “Why not?” But a storm is blowing in over Europe. They have to land in the UK. He tries to take a cab to Cambridge, but they can’t get through a snow drift.

Reacher gets out and decides to walk. It’s not even dawn yet, but he can see a large house ahead and hopes that they’ll let him have some coffee or maybe even a meal. It’s Christmas morning, after all.

He gets to the door, only to discover that they’re waiting for a doctor and a police officer. Reacher does what he does and saves the day. No big deal. Great story, though.

The last three stories only take up 27 pages. They’re pretty short, and really great. In “Guy Walks into a Bar,” Reacher tries to help stop a kidnapping in NYC. Of course, he does it in classic, clever Jack Reacher fashion. He’s just watching the people around him, noticing the signs, and makes his judgements of their intentions. The twist at the end is fucking fantastic.

“No Room at the Motel” is another Christmas story. It’s really short at only four pages, but it’s yet another fantastic glimpse into the character of Jack Reacher.

“The Picture of the Lonely Diner” brings Reacher back to NYC. He gets off the train and finds that there is police tape blocking both entrances. He eases his way up to the surface and discovers that the city blocks have been cleared for quite a distance around him. He spots an FBI agent and finds out what’s going on. Reacher does what he does and finds a solution to the problem that others can’t seem to find. I loved it.

In general, this is a great book. There’s something for everyone, no matter what side of Reacher’s personality it is that you like. There’s the clever kid, the skilled MP, the retired wanderer, and the badass fighter. Personally, I’m drawn to the wanderer aspect of the Reacher character. I used to wander a bit myself, though never quite so drastically. How fabulous that would be, though—to be able to live like that.

Every Reacher fan will find enjoyment in this book. And if you’ve never read a Jack Reacher story before, this book is an ideal introduction into the world Lee Child has created in his mind and shared with the world.