A Wanted Man
A Jack Reacher Thriller by Lee Child
Review: Jack Reacher is hitching a ride late one night from Nebraska to Virginia when he's picked up by a car with two men and a woman, all dressed in identical polo shirts. Thinking they're returning from a team-building business conference, he settles in for the long ride. But soon it's clear to him that something is not quite right with his three companions, which gets him to wondering what it might be in A Wanted Man, the seventeenth mystery in this series by Lee Child.
Reacher begins to parse the actions of the two men and woman and comes to the conclusion that, despite the identical clothes they're wearing, the two men don't really know the woman. She, however, says little to confirm or deny that suspicion. When they pass through not one but two roadblocks, Reacher thinks that somehow his traveling partners must be involved in whatever it is the police are searching for … and yet the fact that they readily passed through both seems to contradict that notion. He eventually makes a silent connection with the woman in the car, learning she's been kidnapped. When he tries to do something about it, one of the men pulls a gun, shoots at him, and makes a clean getaway with his partner and the woman. Reacher does the only thing he can: contact the authorities and offer his assistance.
A parallel plot thread in the early chapters of A Wanted Man is from the perspective of Julia Sorenson, the lead FBI agent on the case of a man murdered outside Omaha. She's after two men seen leaving the crime scene and has ordered the roadblocks. Unfortunately, her instructions to look for two men dressed in black suits is sorely dated, allowing the car that Reacher is traveling in to get through without a second look. It is Sorenson that Reacher teams up with to go after the killers.
There's something very appealing about the simple way this story is set up, with both Reacher and Sorenson taking in information and adapting their actions to deal with what they expect to happen next. It's also appealing that both make errors in judgment but don't let these minor lapses interfere with their ultimate objective. What doesn't quite work here is that the storyline transitions from being understandable and suspenseful to being overly complicated and somewhat obtuse … and really not all that exciting. Elements of the endgame are foreshadowed very early — for example, the real identities of the people in the car, which, in and of itself is not necessarily a problem — but the attempts at misdirection, to lead the reader into thinking they may be wrong about the conclusions they've drawn, often come across as a little clumsy. A bit of editing, shortening the book by 100 pages or so, would have gone a long way towards tightening up the narrative and making for a more intense reading experience. As it is, A Wanted Man is an agreeable entry in this series, but definitely not one of the more thrilling ones.
Acknowledgment: Delacorte Press provided an ARC of A Wanted Man for this review.
Review Copyright © 2012 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in A Wanted Man: Nebraska
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A Wanted Man by Lee Child — A Jack Reacher Thriller
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: September 2012
List Price: $28.00