I read Personal, the nineteenth book in Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series (or perhaps more aptly the Jack Reacher institution in the world of thriller readers and writers) back to back with number four, The Visitor. In part this was just the way the chips fell, the books were handed to me in that order. But as usual, I like to read with one eye on the lessons available as a writer (and who better to teach than Lee Child). In this case, as the author of a crime and thriller series I was interested to get a sense of how well Lee Child maintains continuity and quality across an expansive series. Nailed it of course. With coffee and calculation, disposable clothing and a big man’s perennial hunger, Lee Child keeps Reacher consistent and bought as seen. That said, Reacher does grow. He is more sensual and romantically minded in the later novels and some have said amorally aggressive and ultra-violent, though I’d debate the latter. We learn more about his family and background and in Personal, there’s a glimpse of a sadder, more sensitive side to the big man as he reflects on his mother’s illness and death.
Series strengths aside, both books, as is the case with every one of the Jack Reacher romps, stand-alone and should be bought on their own merits. In Personal, I especially love how Child plays with the world and storytelling. He creates a giant that makes Reacher feel like Gulliver as he travels and we as readers feel like children being told a tall and bloody tail.
In The Visitor, I also wanted to read Child’s 4th book as I worked on my own and loved how Child experiments with the narrative. He builds tension so masterfully while making the reader privy to details and cracking the mystery. Of course, his real skill is actually luring us in and catching us out with twists and turns that show how wrong we were!