A Wanted Man


Lee Child


Mystery & Thriller


Date Reviewed:

February 11, 2020

ack Reacher returns in book number seventeen of his bestselling series. The books don't need to be read in order, this is the third one that I have read. All of the Reacher novels are page turners. The paperback edition has 533 pages (not counting bonus material at the end), but I read the book in one day while waiting in airports and flying home. The momentum and mysteries keep piling up, until it seems not even Reacher is going to be able to solve this situation.

A Wanted Man begins when Reacher sticks out is thumb to hitch a ride. (The previous Jack Reacher novel I read, Echo Burning, also began with him getting picked up while hitchhiking. Do most of the novels begin this way?) He is in the middle of Nebraska, hoping to get to Virginia. A car containing three people slows down to pick him up, it holds Mr King and Mr McQueen and a woman named Karen Delfuenso. Reacher is grateful for the ride, but he can't help but notice that the three of them are telling him lies - they claim to have been driving for hours, yet the gas gauge is full. They offer him a drink from a water bottle, and the water is still cold. All three are wearing ill-fitting, matching blue shirts.

Meanwhile, a few miles back down the road, FBI agent Julia Sorenson has been called to a murder scene by Sheriff Goodman - an eyewitness has reported a man knifed by two men. Sorenson calls for roadblocks on the interstate highway, instructing the highway patrol to look for a car with two men in it. There aren't many roads in Nebraska, it is possible that the roadblocks will capture the perpetrators.

A Wanted Man sets up a rhythm of alternating between the story, as Jack Reacher realizes that he is ensnared in some kind of criminal enterprise, and the actions of agent Sorenson, as she quickly organizes the manhunt. It becomes clear that this was more than just an "ordinary" murder, there are big stakes involve. The crime occurred in a building containing a well head, which leads down to the aquifer where millions of Americans pump up water for drinking and farming.

Reacher, of course, is ultra-competent. He knows guns. He knows cars, communications, and criminals. For some reason, Reacher has also memorized the area codes and populations of all the US metropolis, though why would anyone bother to do that? I like that Sorenson and Goodman are also competent - they are smart, they methodical, they figure out the clues and are in hot pursuit of Reacher and his car-load of unsavory characters.

There are plenty of surprises in the plot. Yes, there are some unlikely coincidences, starting with the fact that a hitch-hiking Reacher just happens to be picked up by some desperate criminals. The fate of Sheriff Goodman also seemed unlikely. But it is easy to forgive these coincidences as the plot hurtles to the grand finale. I like how Child plots his novels, I will certainly read more Jack Reacher novels in the future.

So far, two of the Jack Reacher novels have been made into movies (starring Tom Cruise). I wonder why these books aren't a movie franchise, similar to the always entertaining James Bond movies.