Review

Nothing to Lose: A Jack Reacher Novel

by Lee Child

NOTHING TO LOSE is Lee Child’s latest, and perhaps most
thoughtful, Jack Reacher novel to date. In conceiving these books,
Child set for himself a simple but brilliant rule: each installment
in the series is effectively a stand-alone work, wholly independent
of the others, with Reacher being the only unifying theme. The
advantage to new readers is obvious: they can pick a book, any
book, and then read the rest in any order. For longtime fans, all
one has to remember is Reacher: big, capable and confident, though
not unreasonably so, a wanderer who knows his own
limitations.

What Child hasn’t done in previous volumes --- at least
explicitly --- is to reach for metaphor, which is what he does
right up front in NOTHING TO LOSE. At the start of the book,
Reacher is on his way to San Diego. His route takes him to
Colorado, where he finds himself on a road that will lead him
either to Hope or to Despair, two small towns in the middle of
nowhere separated by 12 miles of empty road. Reacher chooses
Despair, hoping for a meal and coffee when he gets there. What he
receives is a hostile reception and an order to leave, along with
his java.

Entering Hope after being summarily rejected by Despair, Reacher
makes the acquaintance of Vaughn, an enigmatic female police
officer who gives him the lowdown on Despair: it’s a factory
town, strangers are not welcome, and Reacher would be best to head
out around it, or in another direction entirely. But Reacher does
not like to back up and, like a tongue probing a sore tooth, begins
making frequent if irregular visits to Despair --- some
clandestine, some not so. It is almost as if he can’t help
himself, for every time he returns, he learns more --- and the more
he learns, the less he knows.

Despair is owned and run by a man named Thurman, part industrialist
and part preacher who just happens to control the town’s only
major industry, which seems to be involved in scrap metal
reclamation. There is a lot, however, that does not add up. Why are
the townspeople so hostile to strangers? Why does a small private
plane leave town late at night after each weekday? What is really
going on in that giant factory on the outskirts of Despair? And
what is up with that military facility that is nearby, to no
discernible purpose? Reacher gets a reluctant Officer Vaughn
interested --- and not just in Despair, either --- but Vaughn has a
tragic secret of her own, which gives Reacher some added impetus to
see things through to an explosive end.

Child drops a couple of informative nuggets about Reacher along the
way, as well as factoids about the best type of coffee cup (and why
it’s the best), some quick but deep philosophical
dissertations (without missing a beat of the narrative) and an
extremely innovative use of one of those multi-positional folding
ladders. He has constructed the novel so that it’s more than
an adventure tale; indeed, there is a mystery at the heart of it
that Reacher is able to puzzle out with equal parts logic,
intuition and luck.

In a way, he also breaks tradition with what normally takes place
in a Reacher story. As a general rule, there has not been much
attention paid to how Reacher gets from Point A to Point B; he
simply does. The opposite is true in NOTHING TO LOSE, and it may be
Child’s response to those who have wondered, jokingly or
otherwise, how Reacher seems able to transverse distance (almost)
at will during the course of a story.

Be that as it may, NOTHING TO LOSE is sure to please all Reacher
fans, new and established.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 13, 2011

Nothing to Lose: A Jack Reacher Novel
by Lee Child

  • Publication Date: June 3, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press
  • ISBN-10: 0385340567
  • ISBN-13: 9780385340564