I’ve finished all of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher first person novels. After Killing Floor, The Persuader, and The Affair are my second and third favourites.
Novels are so personal and subjective. Readers like different things. Readers expect different things. Some people want action. Others prefer mystery, tone and psychology.
The Persuader is what I’d call as classic Jack Reacher story. It starts with an introductory action set piece. Then it goes into mystery mode. (In this case it’s very Hitchcockian.) Finally, it turns into an action thriller.
I think in some ways the best thing about these kind of novels is the build-up, the scene setting at the beginning. When it works, it creates a fascinating world. We get to know intriguing characters and environments. It’s immersive.
The Reacher novels that work for me pull off this aspect of the storytelling brilliantly. The ones that don’t, they feel expositionary. They are a series of disparate plot points. Scenes feel like fictional constructs rather than natural events.
In The Persuader Reacher is sent on a mission. He is sent into the ‘dragon’s layer’. It’s a different vibe to Killing Floor where the problem finds him. But this also works. The baddies are carrying out their work in plain sight. Things are not what they seem. At least we can be sure that Reacher will find out what is going on.
In the The Affair, Jack Reacher is also sent on a mission. To investigate a murder in a small town. The story takes place in the past. It’s a younger Reacher. Again, it’s really the setup that makes the story. In this story Reacher teams up with a local cop who’s ex-military. It’s a buddy story as well as a romance. It’s a bit cheesy in places, perhaps deliberately so.
These two novels show that a good set-up builds the tone and immerses the reader in the story.