Jack Reacher Book Synopses

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This webpage presents synopses of the Jack Reacher books by Lee Child, listed first with subjective rankings by Mentifex of how thrilling the books are and then simply in chronological order for books not yet renked for quality. We pay attention to the style and technique of the books. We also track observations about the U.S. Army and about modern society. So-called "spoilers" may be included here which give away part of the plot, because the emphasis here is on enjoying the tradecraft of the writing author without regard to the petty whodunit details.

As an itinerant soldier of fortune, Jack Reacher carries only a toothbrush as his luggage. Every few days Reacher buys new clothing and throws his old clothes away. He doesn't let any one push him around. He stumbles into scams and high jinks. The outcome is an exciting novel for thriller junkies to read.

Read the books in the following order if you really want to enjoy them.

  • (99%) Gone Tomorrow (2009) Jack Reacher book #13
    Story: Jack Reacher is on a bus at night in New York City when he notices an extremely suspicious passenger. Reacher decides to approach her, and she shoots herself dead. When the police investigate, Reacher gets drawn into chases all over New York City.
    Appraisal: This book deserves a high ranking because the action moves excitingly forward and presents vivid descriptions of the lay-out of the post-nine-eleven New York City. Implications of the Patriot Act play a role in the book, which resembles more an espionage thriller than a detective thriller.
    Allusions: To Rudyard Kipling.

  • (98%) Without Fail (2002) Jack Reacher book #6
    Story: Reacher has to protect the U.S. vice?president.
    Appraisal: Lots of fascinating information.

  • (97%) Killing Floor (1997) Jack Reacher book #1
    Story: Reacher is arrested by a corrupt police department.
    Appraisal: As the first Reacher book, it is very good.

  • (96%) Nothing To Lose (2008) Jack Reacher book #12
    Story: On a vagrant MGTOW trip from Calais, Maine, to San Diego in California, Reacher walks out of Hope, Colorado to the neighboring town of Despair, Colorado, where he is arrested for vagrancy and made to feel not only unwelcome but also extremely curious about what is going on in the single-main-employer company town. On the way back he is picked up by a lady cop, Officer Vaughan of the Hope police department, who is married to a totally disabled veteran of the American war against the people of Iraq. Officer Vaughan and ex-MP Reacher spend the rest of the book solving the various mysteries going on in the town of Despair.
    Appraisal: This book shows a major negative swing in Jack Reacher's attitude towards the U.S. Army, which has killed more than one hundred thousand Iraqi civilians and has caused Officer Vaughan's husband to be so severely wounded after a third tour in Iraq that his brain is bulging forward out of his shattered skull and he lives in a vegetative state. When Officer Vaughan asks Reacher if his own service and his own getting wounded in the military had been worth it, Reacher answers that it has not been worth it for a long time, not since 1945, that is, since the end of the justified war in which America defeated Nazi Germany and imperial Japan. When Officer Vaughan asks Reacher why the military hospitals are so bad, Reacher says, "Because deep down to the army, a wounded soldier that can't fight anymore is garbage." A major subplot in the novel is that an outfit in California is using the town of Despair to smuggle deserters from the U.S. Army into Canada. So at this stage in the series of Jack Reacher novels, the author takes some major swipes at the honor and depravity of the U.S. military.

  • (95%) One Shot (2005) Jack Reacher book #9
    Story: Chapter One describes a sniper killing five individuals in an American city. When the obvious suspect James Barr is arrested, he denies being guilty of the crime and he says, "Get Jack Reacher for me." But the story has hit the national news and has already set Jack Reacher in motion to come and punish Barr.
    Appraisal: This thriller is so good that they made a movie out of it starring Tom Cruise.
    Impact: The losers in the MGTOW subReddit love to quote a scene where a cute girl named Sandy sits down with Jack Reacher and invites him to go elsewhere with her. Reacher says, "I can't afford you." Sandy exclaims, "I'm not a hooker!" To which Reacher replies, "Then I really can't afford you," which for the MGTOW pessimists means that in a normal relationship with a normal woman, a guy stands to lose his house, his income, his kids and his personal freedom.

  • (95%) Night School (2016) Jack Reacher book #21
    Story: Reacher's mission from the highest levels of the U.S. government is so sensitive that it is camouflaged as an ostensible setback in his military career -- being sent back to school. But one of his two classmates is from the FBI, and the other is from the CIA. Most of the action takes place in Hamburg, Germany. The team must find an American traitor in Germany.
    Appraisal: The book reads more like a spy thriller than a mere action thriller. It delves into transformations that the U.S. Army went through after World War Two and during the Cold War. Reacher's knowledge of detective tradecraft is exemplary in the book.

  • (92%) Bad Luck and Trouble (2007) Jack Reacher book #11
    Story: A friend of Reacher gets killed by being dropped out of a helicopter onto the desert in California. Reacher finds out about it because someone mysteriously deposits $1030 into Reacher's bank account -- which for ex-MP Reacher is a radio code seeking urgent assistance. Reacher finds out that former members of his team of military investigators are being killed off. The surviving four members, including a love interest, band together and hunt down the killers.
    Appraisal: The action takes place in and around Los Angeles, California, and Las Vega, Nevada. Reacher displays lots of interesting tradecraft. The characters are well drawn. It is an exciting read.
    Allusions: On paperback page 369, Reacher figures that Huntingrton Drive was once a part of the old Route 66, then starts "singing to himself, about getting his kicks" (i.e. on Route 66 ;-)

  • (90%) Running Blind (2000) Jack Reacher book #4
    Story: Eating at a new Italian restaurant in New York City, Jack Reacher interferes with an attempt by the Petrosian mob to work a protection racket, unaware that the FBI has been keeping him under surveillance for a week. The FBI scoops Jack Reacher up and presses him into service as they try to solve a string of murders around the USA.
    Appraisal: This book has tedious stretches of italics showing the purported thoughts of the unknown culprit. The murder scenes are gruesome and unpleasant.

  • (85%) Worth Dying For (2010) Jack Reacher book #15
    Story: Hitchhiking Jack Reacher has been dropped off near a crossroads in the state of Nebraska and is in a lounge where a drunken old doctor refuses to respond to a phone call from a local woman who is suffering from a nosebleed that won't stop. From his experience as a military cop, Reacher knows what the doctor should do to stop the nosebleed and so Reacher insists on driving the drunken doctor over to the woman's house to render medical assistance. One thing leads to another, and Reacher finds himself in a violent war with the evil, dominant family in the county.
    Appraisal: A real page-turner, even for a seond reading. Reacher fights off various teams of enemy forces and inflicts harsh damage on each individual on the principle of destroying "enemy ordnance," that is, he renders each enemy incapable of fighting again anytime soon. One drawback is that Reacher himself is briefly taken prisoner, which threatens the reader's notion of Reacher as an invincible hero.

  • (80%) Personal (2014) Jack Reacher book #19
    Story: Reacher is on a bus to Seattle when he picks up a discarded copy of the Army Times in which he discovers a personal ad addressed to himself, Jack Reacher. So from a fish stall in the Pike Place Market he calls the indicated individual and is told to go to a coffee shop across the street and wait for some one to come to him. When the apparent Chief Petty Officer shows up, Reacher begins a wild journey of travel as a consultant to places like Paris, France, and London, England.
    Appraisal: The book has some nice touches, but there is too much gory violence in it.
    Allusions: Several to the Socratic method of classical antiquity. On the paperback page 151 the sentence "The future's not ours to see" is a sly six-word allusion to "Que Sera, Sera", a popular song in America.

  • (75%) Better Off Dead (October 26, 2021) Jack Reacher book #26
    Story: Reacher meets a woman who is looking for someone, and decides to help her.
    Appraisal: This book, although co-written with Andrew Child, reads like the old Jack Reacher books -- full of excitement and clever details. Two problems are that the action occurs mainly in one rather uninteresting Southwest town, and there is way too much violence.

  • (40%) Past Tense (2018) Jack Reacher book #23
    Story: Reacher investigates his own ancestry.
    Appraisal: This Reacher book #23 starts off well with with plenty of bon mot examples, but bogs down in a story that is simply too far-fetched and unrealistic for the reader to visualize the story as even remotely possible.

    In chronological order -- enjoyed but not yet rated

  • (not yet ranked) Die Trying (1998) Jack Reacher book #2

  • (not yet ranked) Tripwire (1999) Jack Reacher book #3

  • (not yet ranked) Echo Burning (2001) Jack Reacher book #5

  • (not yet ranked) Persuader (2003) Jack Reacher book #7

  • (not yet ranked) The Enemy (2004) Jack Reacher book #8

  • (not yet ranked) The Hard Way (2006) Jack Reacher book #10

  • (not yet ranked) 61 Hours (2010) Jack Reacher book #14

  • (not yet ranked) The Affair (2011) Jack Reacher book #16

  • (not yet ranked) A Wanted Man (2012) Jack Reacher book #17

  • (not yet ranked) Never Go Back (2013) Jack Reacher book #18

  • (not yet ranked) Make Me (2016) Jack Reacher book #20
    Story: TBA

  • (not ranked) The Midnight Line (2017) Jack Reacher book #22

  • (not ranked) Blue Moon (2019) Jack Reacher book #24

  • (not ranked) The Sentinel (2020) Jack Reacher book #25

  • (not ranked) No Plan B (2022) Jack Reacher book #27

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