In Lee Child’s latest Jack Reacher novel, Blue Moon (Random House), the wandering action hero is riding a Greyhound bus when he suspects that a young thug plans to prey on an elderly gentleman whose pocket bulges with an envelope of money. Concerned, Reacher rescues the man from his attacker, befriends him, and learns his story. His name is Aaron Shevick, and to pay for his daughter’s costly cancer treatment, he borrowed thousands of dollars from a ruthless Albanian loan shark. Now Shevick must repay the gangster, and if he doesn’t arrive at the arranged hand-off place by noon, he risks torture or death.

Not being one to stand by and witness the vulnerable or naïve be victimized, Reacher steps in to shield the old man and his family from harm. Suddenly Reacher himself is the target as Ukrainian mobsters join the mayhem. His involvement has enormous consequences—each Albanian crime begets Ukrainian retribution, and vice versa until the city writhes with turmoil and carnage.

From the riveting start, Child reminds us that, as a former military policeman, Reacher has primordial street wisdom baked into his DNA. Humanity is hardwired for fight-or-flight violence and, through history, survival instincts are handed down to us…or at least to Jack Reacher. As a protector of the down-and-out and a punisher of villains, he embodies an American icon. Much like the beloved gunslinging cowboy Shane, he does his part before restlessness carries him away to new adventures. What reader can resist rooting for such a hero?

And Child is a master at constructing situations that leave no exit, only to prove Reacher can crack the most obscure dilemma. When sinister Albanians or Ukrainians corner him, he navigates danger with grace, barely bruising his knuckles, and always maintaining calm.

Skillful point-of-view shifts reveal the bad guys’ nefarious plans, ramping up the tension as the reader guesses how Reacher will react. Explosions of violence, often creative in setting, follow. Child’s ability to describe the choreography of combat is among his greatest skills. Blue Moon features a correspondingly massive body count as Reacher dodges legions of mobsters.

Along Reacher’s helter-skelter path, he meets Abby, a lovely, petite waitress and experimental artist who becomes a kind of guide to the city’s inner workings. Child describes the map so well that the reader, too, learns to navigate the streetscape—and which gang dominates which territory.

Her coterie of bohemian musician friends cheerfully unites with Reacher and Abby to form a survival team. These companions create an amusing dynamic rife with wry one-liners. Hilarious understatements and deadpan humor match Reacher’s stoic personality and foster an irresistible mood of tough-guy charm. Nightclub scenes featuring music add flavor to a plot focused on strategic violence. Clearly, Child is a veteran musician, and the author’s appreciation shines through with eloquent descriptions of instruments and rhythms.

Child also takes the time to describe how Eastern-European women are seduced into the American sex trade so that when one becomes a victim of crossfire, she is given a name and dignity. Male authors, please take note.

Most meaningful is Child’s ability to convert societal problems—such as an ineffective health insurance network or a slow legal justice system—into action hero territory. Reacher’s solution for halting the economic downward spiral of the American middle class is punching his way to the obvious truth. This explains why we read the series: to fantasize about cutting today’s red tape and making things right.

Blue Moon is a fantastic binge for the Reacher aficionado with lively characters and fun scenarios. It’s now available for purchase.

 

About Lee Child

Lee Child spends his time reading, listening to music, and watching the Yankees, Aston Villa or Marseilles soccer. He is married with a grown-up daughter. He is tall and slim, despite an appalling diet and a refusal to exercise.