‘No Middle Name’ – Lee Child

The complete Jack Reacher short story collection, including a brand-new adventure.

No Middle Name book coverAnother mega-selling author, another book release.But this one’s a bit different. No Middle Name is a series of short stories all based on Lee Child’s primary character, the iconic Jack Reacher, and it seems to be doing very well (at least in the United Kingdom).

At first, I was a bit reluctant to pick this one up. Short stories aren’t really my first choice, but I figured I would give it a go anyway as I was curious to see how Lee Child handles the short form and whether I could learn from him. I’m glad I did. To find out why, read on!

Lee Child’s Reacher novels tend to follow a particular format. Reacher is in a strange place, some stuff happens, he gets involved in the stuff. There’s a fight or two (which he wins), maybe a damsel in distress (who he beds), he finally comes up against the bad guys, wins, and then moves on. These aren’t criticisms – they’re what make Reacher such a popular character. Every man wants to be him, every woman wants to be with him. That kind of thing.

My original concern was that No Middle Name was going to be a series of much shorter versions of this scenario. To an extent, this is true. Several of the shorts, the novella ‘Too Much Time’ and the shorts ‘High Heat’ (which features a teenage Reacher) and ‘Deep Down’ loosely follow this recipe. But interspersed among these are much deeper stories that go into the background of Reacher, giving us a glimpse of how he came to be who he is today. They range from stories about him as a child through to today, but only offer a snapshot. There’s nothing revelatory about how he came to be who he is – no seminal events are offered from his background. Plenty of ‘who’ but not much ‘why’.

Although Jack Reacher is at the heart of all the stories, they’re not just about him. ‘James Penney’s New Identity is about a man called James Penney and is a great little tale with a cracking twist. ‘Everyone Talks’, one of two stories in the first person, is told by a rookie detective who interviews Reacher as he recovers in hospital from a gunshot wound.

The last couple of stories are much shorter, and suffer a bit from their length, but overall this book’s a must for fans of Jack Reacher, both old and new.

Would I recommend this book? Definitely. A great addition to the Jack Reacher stable. 4.5 stars.

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