‘The Midnight Line’ – Lee Child

The Midnight Line Front CoverSo, the latest Jack Reacher book. Number 22 in the series. As I’ve said before, Lee Child taps into the human psyche well. Men want to be him, women want to be with him. The idea of being a large, hard man with no ties is appealing to most men, at least in a fantasy sense. No mortgage, no bills, no responsibilities – just the ability to drift around having ‘adventures’ is an attractive daydream for many, including me. As far as what women think of Reacher, I’m not really qualified to comment on that part, but I sense that he is appealing to them in a different way.

The Midnight Line is, to an extent, a traditional Reacher novel. He arrives somewhere, discovers an issue, and uses all the tools at his disposal to investigate and ultimately resolve the issue. But this is a subtly different novel to most of the others. The setup is that Reacher finds a West Point ring in a pawn shop, obviously a woman’s. Knowing how difficult it is to get one of these rings, he sets out to uncover it’s provenance and to ultimately try to return it to it’s rightful owner. That’s the premise of the plot – not that different to the other Reacher novels, but perhaps rather softer.

Cue bad guys who need to beaten up, a vaguely organised network to be uncovered and taken down, and a damsel or two in distress. Compared to some of the other Reacher books, this one is toned down a fair bit, and rightfully so. There’s no presidents to defend for example, it’s a much more realistic ride, and it’s set against a realistic and sympathetically portrayed background of drug addiction, pain, and ultimately despair.

For a bloke from Birmingham (in the West Midlands in the United Kingdom, not Alabama), Lee Child absolutely nails the scenery, and this is a key component in the narrative – almost a character in itself. Neighbours are twenty miles away, the landscape is bleak and inhospitable, and also perfect for the plot.

Reacher swaggers his way through the book in the way that we’ve all come to love, but at the same time he shows us a different side to his usual self. There’s an unusual tenderness about him that we’ve not really seen before, and it’s a welcome insight into his character. There is a ‘thing’ right at the end of the book – obviously I’m not going to go into it here – that feels almost required or formulaic, and isn’t something that I thought was required, but other than that this was a fantastic addition to the Reacher series.

Would I recommend this book? Definitely. 4 stars, only the ‘thing’ at the end stops a fifth star.