1.Jack Reacher. And you really need no other reason. Reacher is one of the great creations in genre fiction, a knight errant of thrillerdom. The ex-military cop is huge (6 feet, 5 inches tall, circa 240 pounds), physically intimidating, adept with all manner of weaponry, quick of intellect and even quicker to determine and confront various forms of villainy. Reacher is (usually) homeless and on the move, owning nothing but a toothbrush and changing outfits every few days as he rides and hikes his way across the United States, never courting danger, but always finding it.
2.He never writes a bad book. Seventeen books in, the series shows no signs of flagging. In A Wanted Man, the ever-itinerant Reacher, sporting a recently broken nose, hitches a ride in remote Nebraska with two men and a woman who claim to be on a company exercise. Meanwhile, an unidentified man has been brutally murdered and the local police may not be equipped to handle it. As usual, Reacher has taken on something quite different from what he bargained for. Expect some satisfying twists and turns along the otherwise arrow-straight highways of the great American Midwest.
3.He likes and respects women. Child’s women are never merely decorative. They range from kidnap victims to lawyers to cops to FBI agents, and they’re usually intelligent, resourceful and entirely capable of handling themselves in a crisis. And there’s always a crisis. And, of course, with a notable exception or two, they tend to be attracted to Reacher, even though, or perhaps because, he was born a travelling man.
4.He’s a great tour guide to the United States. Reacher was a military brat who spent most of his life overseas. By wandering his native country, he allows Child – who’s from England, though you’d never know it – to tour the highways, hamlets, backwaters and, sometimes, cities of America. A Wanted Man is very much a driving novel; when you finish, you’ll feel as if you’ve been companionably on the road. The miles click by, the pages turn. And we begin an impatient wait for the next Reacher novel.
Martin Levin is Books editor of The Globe and Mail. He is dismayed by the choice of the decidedly non-intimidating Tom Cruise to play Reacher in the forthcoming film, but is willing to suspend judgment.