Without Fail by Lee Child (audio)

Reacher is back!

This one follows Echo Burning, my very first Lee Child read. Reacher has just hitchhiked cross-country, from Los Angeles to Atlantic City, with a pair of musicians who, while minor characters, I came to appreciate. Reacher’s interactions with these minor players help to form his character as a basically good-hearted and generous guy; he goes out of his way for them. In Atlantic City, Reacher is tracked down by a Secret Service woman who knows him through his brother Joe, her ex-boyfriend. She wants to hire him to assassinate the Vice President elect. Weird, right? No, she wants him to sort of mock-assassinate. It’s meant to be a security audit. But of course, the reason why she wants a security audit is… someone is trying to kill the Vice President. (Elect).

I have to confess that my first reaction to the plot premise was… do Vice Presidents really get assassinated? I thought the old joke was that they were sort of insignificant, until somebody assassinates the President. At any rate, I gladly buy in because it’s a fascinating storyline. So Reacher is working with Froehlich – that’s Joe’s ex, the Secret Service ace – and Neagley, a fellow retired MP and general badass who Reacher calls in. Neagley was a fun character to meet, too: she’s got skills and smarts much like Reacher, and they’re clearly pretty close, but she also has baggage that I’d love to learn more about in a later novel. The layers that are discovered! Well, so we spend a lot of time in DC for obvious reasons, and also in North Dakota where the VP-elect has been serving as Senator; and the final scene takes place in the middle of nowhere in Froehlich’s home state of Wyoming. It’s a well-traveled book (have you been counting? CA, NJ, DC, ND, and WY) and naturally ends with a bang.

I have just a handful of new observations with this listen. As stated, I’m really enjoying some of the minor or side characters. I have also noted something in this book that I’ve been unconsciously appreciating throughout this series: Child presents back-story, technical details, and general exposition in a smooth and natural way. You know how sometimes, if we need to know that the kid goes to soccer practice every Wednesday, the mom will say to the dad, “Can you pick up Billy from his usual Wednesday night soccer practice this week even though I usually do?” And that’s silly, because real people don’t put in all that detail in dialog when the other person already knows it? Child does it better.

Also, I’m beginning to notice speech patterns. Reacher has a way of ending a lot of his statements with a rhetorical “…right?” As in, “so, we need to get there first, right?” It’s just one of those colloquialisms people have. But what I think I noticed in this book is… other people have the same verbal habits. I’m not sure that’s entirely realistic, since one of the features of the Reacher books is travel, geographic instability, everybody being from different places. Reacher even emphasizes this, observing from people’s speech and clothing that they come from different parts of the country; he’s really big on regionalism. I like those touches. But everyone having the same rhetorical “…right?” seems somehow less authentic. I don’t know, it’s just something I noticed.

Along the same lines, I think I’m beginning to hear narrator Dick Hill (who I love for this series!) use the same voices for several different characters. All women, I think, and that may explain it; it may be difficult for his deep man’s voice to come up with different female-character-voices. But still. I guess I’m beginning to recognize patterns. Is it perhaps time for a break from Reacher? Ha ha ha. NO! I’m still loving it. Don’t take my Reacher away.

2 Responses

  1. […] for any trouble, but his past catches up with him. Specifically, Frances Neagley (whom we met in Without Fail) makes contact, requesting his help. A member of their one-time elite and closer-than-blood special […]

  2. […] can have anything they need; so Reacher gets Sergeant Frances Neagley, who we know from books like Without Fail and Bad Luck and Trouble (among others). I like […]

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