Lee Child released Blue Moon, his 24th Jack Reacher novel, on October 29, 2019—Reacher’s 59th birthday. Like most 59-year-olds, Reacher is set in his ways: a committed vagabond who stays out of people’s way unless they cross his path, helping those who need it, hurting those who deserve it. And like Reacher himself, Lee Child’s writing is set in its way too. Readers know exactly what they’re going to get when they turn the first page.
Remarkably, the formula still works well. Reacher finds himself on a bus observing a young punk trying to figure out how to lift the large amount of cash an old man obviously holds in his coat pocket. The old man gets off the bus, the young man follows him, and Reacher follows the young man, just to make sure no harm comes to the old one. No good deed goes unpunished, however, and Reacher ends up helping the old man and his wife, who find themselves caught in an escalating war between violent Albanian and Ukrainian gangs. Throw in a plucky “petite and gamine” waitress with a backstory who wants to try something new every day, and Blue Moon unfolds inexorably toward its dénouement: the good guys win, the bad guys lose, and Reacher walks away.
My number-one criteria for suspense novels is that they keep me turning pages. Blue Moon does that. That page-turner quality has to be balanced against the reader’s willing suspension of disbelief, which all novels force us to occupy. My main beef with the past few Reacher novels is that the page-turner quality was starting to lose out to the suspension-of-disbelief quality. Blue Moon did better, in this regard, than its immediate predecessors.
Still, when I turned the last page, I started wondering: Why would a pretty thirtysomething waitress find a nearly 60-year-old homeless man attractive? Can a man who’s been on the road for 22 years—Reacher retired from the Army in 1997—stay at the top of his physical and mental game, as this story shows him to be? And can a guy who’s killed as many bad guys as Reacher really evade law enforcement as long as he has?
I suppose the balance between page-turning and believability has shifted for me over the last few novels, which would explain why I didn’t pick this book up the day it was published. Lee Child probably has a few Reacher novels left in him. And while I enjoyed this novel a little more than its past few predecessors, my interest in Reacher is flagging. I’ll give the 25th novel a read in honor of Reacher’s 60th birthday, but then I think I’ll be done. Reacher should be done by then too.
Lee Child, Blue Moon: A Jack Reacher Novel (New York: Delacorte Press, 2019).
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