Lee Child Month #2: Running Blind, Echo Burning, Without Fail

Running Blind

The fourth entry into the Jack Reacher series, Running Blind has Child’s usual level of steadily building tension. Two women have been murdered, and FBI profilers have decided that Reacher is exactly who they’re looking for. His connection? He handled both women’s sexual harassment cases while he was in the Military Police. As more women are murdered, Reacher is pulled into the investigation both to clear his own name and to serve his sense of justice by bringing the real killer to light. The strange circumstances of the murders – a killer who leaves no marks on his victims, then leaves the bodies in a bathtub full of army-green paint – make this novel a bit of a brain-teaser. While some of the characters are slightly weaker than can be expected from Child, he manages to keep the action flowing, even with the slower unfolding of the main case. In this book, we’re also introduced to Reacher’s main love interest: Jodie Garber, his childhood sweetheart. Although the long-term aspect of their relationship is a departure from Reacher’s usual romantic entanglements, Jodie’s brain and intuition are shown as a more cerebral match for Reacher’s brawn and animal instincts, and their teamwork forms an interesting aspect of the story.

Echo Burning

Echo Burning is a slight departure from Child’s previous formula, posing questions of right versus wrong, and justice against injustice. We meet up with Reacher as he is – once again – about to be arrested. While hitchhiking away, he is picked up by Carmen, who reveals that she needs her husband dead. She’s convinced Reacher is just the man for the job. Echo Burning is built on a stark, baked landscape, unfolding at a slow pace without ever starting to drag. It is unique in the series, as it’s the only novel where Reacher doesn’t have a love interest. Child weaves a slightly more philosophical tone into his story, allowing the reader to peek a little more closely at who this man really is. Through it all, we see Reacher’s approach to life echoed in his actions – what motivates him to act as he does, and how he sees the world. It carries an emotional punch that winds up slow and doesn’t fake the hit.

Without Fail

Only one man can prevent the death of the Vice President. He’s also the best man to pull off the perfect assassination. Reacher is recruited by the Vice-President-Elect’s head of security, in the hope he’ll help her keep him safe: the V-P elect has been receiving death threats, and Mary Ellen (M.E.) Froelich can’t let those threats become a reality. Without Fail begins to dig up some past on our violent protagonist. Reacher must work with the ex-lover of his deceased brother, which Child uses to introduce some tension. Unfortunately, M.E. is not a particularly strong character, but Child also introduces Frances Neagley, Reacher’s former army buddy. Neagley is presented as a sort of female version of Reacher, and the two of them together prove to be a formidable investigative team. M.E.’s faults – both as a love interest, and in her wet-tissue weak characterization – allow Neagley to shine. Despite this one quibble, this is still an enjoyable read. Child manages to keep the tension up to his accustomed key all the way to the final stand off.

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