Review

The Hard Way

by Lee Child



One of the highwater marks of any year is the appearance of a new
Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child. Reacher may well be one of the
most enigmatic characters in modern fiction. He simply appears in
each new installment without preamble in a particular city and
finds trouble --- or trouble finds him. He does what he needs to do
and then moves on. What remains particularly impressive is the
manner in which Child takes a character who in the hands of a
lesser writer would have been a one-trick pony and keeps him fresh
and new by slowly revealing facets of his personality without
reinventing him. At the same time, Reacher's flawed perfection
makes him continually interesting; for all of his superlatives, he
often can be wrong. One of Reacher's major strengths is his
adaptability, his ability to recognize his mistakes and correct
them almost immediately.

Child brings all of these elements to the fore in THE HARD WAY, the
latest and perhaps best Reacher book to date. It begins with
Reacher drinking a cup of coffee at a café in New York's
Greenwich Village. We're not sure how he happens to be there or how
he arrived; we only know that Reacher had visited the place the
night before, liked it, and uncharacteristically came back for a
second visit. It is this return that causes him to be involved in a
kidnap for ransom. Unbeknownst to Reacher, it appears he witnessed
the pickup of the ransom demand during his initial visit to the
coffee shop. Edward Lane, the object of this demand, wants to know
what Reacher saw. Lane's wife and stepdaughter have been kidnapped,
and he wants them back. Lane was victimized five years previously,
and although he paid the ransom, his wife at the time was brutally
murdered. Lane does not want a repeat performance. So when he
becomes aware of Reacher's powers of observation, as well as his
experience as a military policeman and other talents, Lane hires
him to find his family.

It soon appears, however, that the kidnap victims have met the same
fate as Lane's first wife. Nothing though is as it seems. Reacher
slowly discovers the truth about Lane from a number of diverse and
unexpected sources, and slowly works his way through a series of
puzzles and multiple webs of deceit. A note here: THE HARD WAY,
though ultimately a thriller, is at heart a mystery, and a good
one. Aficionados of the latter genre will no doubt figure out the
major plotline fairly early on. It is a mark of Child's talent,
however, that one of the most riveting elements of this book is the
manner in which Reacher's two-steps-forward, one-step-back
investigation proceeds.

Child continues to demonstrate his ability to keep the reader in
the room, so to speak, at all times. There was one point near the
novel's conclusion where I was literally screaming "Don't do that!"
at a character, wanting to take them by force and drag them away
from what they were about to do. That, I would submit, is the work
of an author at the top of his craft.

With THE HARD WAY, Child demonstrates that he and Reacher are just
getting started rather than slowing down. Child will no doubt have
an audience for these books for as long as he continues to write
them. Very highly, and repeatedly, recommended.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011

The Hard Way
by Lee Child

  • Publication Date: March 27, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Dell
  • ISBN-10: 0440241030
  • ISBN-13: 9780440241034