This Time, It’s Personal

This Time, It’s Personal

Lee Child’s 19th Jack Reacher novel is a fun, fast-paced, coffee-fuelled rush of international mayhem

By Rohit Nair (senior Features Writer)

Published: Fri 20 Feb 2015, 12:12 PM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 7:47 PM

If there’s something strange — involving high-powered sniper rifles, .50 calibre rounds and attempted presidential assassinations — in your neighbourhood, who you gonna call? Jack Reacher! But definitely not Tom Cruise, who played Reacher in the cinematic adaptation. In fact, throughout that entire farce of a movie, I was thinking, “Why in blue blazes didn’t they get Liam Neeson up in here?” Neeson would have fitted the role like a glove. Happily enough, Lee Child’s latest Jack Reacher novel, Personal, is a welcome return to the real Jack Reacher. It’s probably not as violent or thrilling as some of the earlier ones, but definitely a very fun read.

We start with a few deviations from the usual Reacher set-pieces. Our main man’s no longer confined to shady podunk corners of mid-west America. He gets to travel this time, across the pond, as it were, to America’s closest ally, England. What’s he doing there? Oh, the usual: kicking butt and taking names, but not before making a pit-stop in Paris. The city of lights has just witnessed an audacious attempt to assassinate the President, by a sniper 1,400 yards out. That’s a mark only five other snipers could pull off, and Reacher is, of course, one of them, because there’s nothing the man can’t do. However, he’s not the man. But the prime suspect, John Kott, is someone he knows too well — and he should, because he put him away for 15 years in prison.

“Most guys have an off-switch,” Reacher says, during a briefing with role-reprising Generals Shoemaker and Tom O’Day. “But Kott’s didn’t close all the way.” Now Kott is out and he’s looking for payback, and how that has anything to do with an assassination attempt on the French President is up to you to read and find out. It’s wonderfully twisted all the way to the very penultimate page.

The fact that there’s an expert sniper, one of only four capable — now that Jack has been vindicated — of pulling off such a precise attempt makes everyone antsy, prompting a manhunt between French, British, Russian and American intelligence agencies, which is another departure for Jack Reacher. He’s usually a loner, as Lee Child constantly reminds us in Personal and has told us in 18 books before. Of course, being the man he is (still waiting for Liam Neeson to play him), he gets further than anyone else with the case of the terrorist sniper. Or snipers? No one is quite sure… Which makes the governments of the G8 even more anxious because they’re about to have their annual summit in London and who knows what kind of worldwide calamity an assassination there would create.

In steps CIA/State Department babysitter Casey Nice, tasked with being the liaison between the tactful and taciturn Reacher and the we-need-to-know-every-move CIA/State Department intelligence team headed by the aforementioned generals and the lanky lady in nylons and high heels, Joan Scarangello. But even babysitters have to fire a weapon now and then, at least in a Lee Child novel, and she does quite well. Not in my books, but in Jack Reacher’s, which is the only opinion that counts here. Why? Because in the course of tracking down the terrorist sniper (or snipers, remember?) Liam Neeson, I mean, Jack Reacher, takes out one mobster, one enforcer for the mob who is a leviathan named Little Joey (because the British love a bit of irony, according to Reacher), several low level thugs who try to kidnap him and Ms Nice, several high level thugs who try to hold him and Ms Nice hostage, and, not that anyone cares, many useless henchman. Englishmen and Serbians get an equal thrashing in this international thriller, all in the back streets of London. Some of them with just gory elbows to the face and some with guns. But all with the pace and grit of Lee Child’s customary orotundity. Plus, there are lengthy descriptions on how to correctly break down doors, how to shoot at optimum distances, aim at odd angles, and many other ‘life lessons’. And coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

So put on a pot, or several, because you’re going to need all that coffee to keep reading Personal. It’s a fun, fast-paced thriller in true Jack Reacher style. And that’s the only opinion that counts.

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