Jack Reacher Reaches Virginia: Never Go Back

Last year I posed the burning question -Will Jack Reacher ever get to Virginia? https://115journals.com/2012/11/04/jack-reacher-will-lee-child-let-him-get-to-virginia/ I can now answer that question. Yes.

It’s true that three of Lee Child’s Reacher novels – 61 Hours, Worth Dying For and A Wanted Man, describing his circuitous journey through South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas, actually took only a matter of days Reacher time, but  it took several years in publishing time and, despite the thrills, seemed endless. In Never Go Back, he actually arrives there.

The novel begins: “Eventually they put Reacher in a car and drove him to a motel a mile away where the night clerk gave him a room, which had all the features Reacher expected, because he had seen such rooms a thousand times before.” The shower would be strangled, the towels thin, the television small and old. In short, he lives in such rooms. As faithful readers know he is in constant motion, travelling by bus and hitched rides across the United States. Earlier I called him a wandering Taoist, unattached to any notion of home. https://115journals.com/2012/06/08/jack-reacher-wandering-taoist/

Shortly after, he is dumped at the cheap motel, a plain dark sedan pulls up and two heavies attempt to persuade him to leave town. “They couldn’t find you before. They won’t find you now. The army doesn’t use skip tracers. And no skip tracer could find you anyway. Not the way you seem to live.” Now here’s a quandary. The guys in the first car have ordered him to stay. But of course, Reacher isn’t about to follow orders any more. He does follow his own rules one of which is “Get your retaliation in first” and soon there are dents to prove it. Such is his welcome to Virginia.

Why was he so intent on getting there? He was following the siren call of a woman’s voice. Not just any woman’s voice, but the competent, risk-taking woman’s voice that has helped him in his travels from South Dakota. His goal is the HQ of 110th MP Special Unit in Rock Creek, a place he knows well since he was its first commanding officer before he quit on principle in 1997, just short of being laterally transferred to the end of the earth. He announces that he is there to see the current CO, Susan Turner and sets the wheels in motion the mayhem that follows.

Turns out that Reacher is still a wanted man: he is wanted for the murder of a gunrunner in Los Angeles 15 years ago and for skipping out on a pregnant lover in Korea, who is now living in a car with her daughter and wants support. Fortunately, the litigant has the wisdom to be living in a car in L.A.

As for Susan Turner, she has vanished from sight and when Reacher tracks her down in a detention facility almost as secret as Gauntanamo, she has left word she doesn’t want to see him. That only encourages him of course.

Turns out her charges are even more serious.

Reacher doesn’t get a glimpse of Susan Turner until a quarter of the way through the book. “She was an inch or two above medium height. She was small-boned and slender, with dark hair pulled back, and tanned skin and deep brown eyes.” He concludes she was well worth the trip. Furthermore she can take care of herself.

It is not brawn but ingenuity that enables them to go on the lam with no papers of their own and a “borrowed” $30. They head for Los Angeles in an attempt to sort out Reacher’s problems before they tackle Turner’s. As they sort his out, they speculate about why they are being targeted and who has the power to pull such strings.

One of the delights of the story is the “daughter”, a 15 year-old who seems as if she should be Reacher’s child. She already has powers of observation well beyond the FBI agents, the Army MPs and the heavies who follow in Reacher’s wake.

The good news is that Reacher’s face doesn’t take on any more damage, but it’s not news at all that he ends up waiting for a bus.

(I read this book on my KIndle.)

Jack Reacher: a long way from Virginia

Will Jack Reacher ever get to Virginia? That’s the burning question.

Lee Child’s novel 61 Hours (March, 2010) opens with Reacher being involved in a bus accident in the middle of a South Dakota winter. Reacher, a former major in the military police, has, as I pointed out in my post “Jack Reacher, Wandering Taoist” no home and travels constantly across the United States, with nothing but the clothes on his back and a toothbrush. His theory is that buying new clothes every fourth day is way cheaper than a mortgage and laundry facilities.) He either hitches rides or takes a bus.

He sets off at the end of 61 Hours, having managed to figure out the truth about what was down there in that strict time frame. Of course, he did, although you might, like me, have entertained the idea that he had vanished in the final mayhem. You could have guessed he would uncover the truth, so it isn’t exactly a spoiler. How could he not? He’s Jack Reacher huge of body and mind, expert in hand to hand combat and pretty good with a rifle. Why is he bound for Virginia? A woman’s voice is luring him there, the voice of a woman major, the voice that helped him through.

Worth Dying For (October 2010) finds Reacher in the corn country of Nebraska, a day or so later, having hitched a ride and ended up in a kind of feudal kingdom where most people keep their heads down and try not to remember the child who vanished many years ago. Reacher gets hooked once again and stays to help the woman who has the courage to stand up against the local oppressor.

The Affair (September 2011) doesn’t advance the journey to Virginia because it is a flashback to Reacher’s adventures in 1997.

But this fall, along came A Wanted Man, which finds Reacher still in wintry Nebraska with the broken nose he got the day before, but it was worth it presumably, since it was Worth Dying For. Given that he has taped his nose up with silver duct tape, it is surprising that he managed to get a ride, but now he’s dropped off at a cloverleaf. He waits there in the bitter cold as car after car slows, takes a look at his size and his smashed-up face and speeds away. Finally, he tears off the duct tape and after 93 bitterly cold minutes gets picked up by a car with three people, wearing identical, ill-fitting blue shirts and claiming to be business cohorts returning from a conference. Reacher thinks things are not as they seem. He is right.

Jack Batten in his review in the Toronto Star, Sunday November 5, 2012, says “What follows adds up to the most satisfying of all 17 thrillers in the series. The secret to its superiority is a matter of pace. The unfolding of events nudges along at just the right pace -deep into the book – things speed up as Reacher pulls toward an authentically gripping climax.”

Reacher makes it into Kansas at one point, but then has to back track to where he first caught the ride. By now his nose is beginning to heal and in the end, he is back at the side of the road, looking for a lift to a bus station where he can get a bus for VIrginia. And no that woman there has not aged greatly – it’s only been a few days in Reacher time.

Just as addendum: Lee Child was in my town and in answer to a question, saw nothing wrong with Tom Cruise playing Reacher in the movie, One Shot. Dismayed listeners cited height. Didn’t seem to bother Lee Child that Cruise, who is shorter than most of his wives, should play 6 ft. 5 in. Jack. Well, fine, but I will watch that movie only if it is the last one on earth and I need the distraction.