Audiobook Review: A Wanted Man by Lee Child

19 09 2012

A Wanted Man by Lee Child (Jack Reacher, Bk. 17)

Read by Dick Hill

Random House Audio

Length: 14 Hours 11 Min

Genre: Thriller

Quick Thoughts: A Wanted Man is another winner in the Reacher serie. It is a change of pace, cerebral thriller that fits well with our aging action hero. Yet, when the action does come, it’s quick and dirty and full of the things we love to see in a Reacher novel.

Grade: B+

In Season 6 of the TV show 24, a terrorist group is wreaking havoc on the West Coast of the United States. One of the reasons, in my personal opinion, that these terrorist are operating with such ease was that for the last 18 months, Jack Bauer, the man who almost single-handedly stopped five pervious terrorist atrocities was locked up safely in a Chinese prison. So, what does this one terrorist do… he arranges to have Jack Bauer released so he can get revenge on him. Well, since we know that there are two more seasons of this show and the potential for a movie, we know that this hapless terrorists plan didn’t go quite as expected. This, of course, proves that TV terrorists are pretty dumb. If I’m a terrorist, the last thing I want is Jack Bauer within 1000 miles of my operating arena. Well, seems book terrorist aren’t much brighter. If you have just murdered an American Trade Attaché in the middle of a Podunk town, I’ll offer you a bit of advice… don’t pick up the big, rough looking hitchhiker with the busted nose. I understand that having another person in your vehicle may confuse the police that are searching for you, but I promise you, if there is even the slightest chance that the hitchhiker you are considering picking up could be Jack Reacher, keep on driving. If you are engaged in any illegal activity, and if there is a beautiful woman, some bent authority figures, and one lone officer or agent trying to do their job, but being blocked by an arrogant bureaucrat, do your best to keep Reacher as far away from the action as possible. It’s not an ass whooping you should b afraid of, even though with Reacher, that’s a probability, but Reacher is one of the bullheaded hero types that just can’t be persuaded from screwing up your criminal plans. It’s just his way. So, if your gonna pick up some hitchhiker, maybe go for the Tom Cruise looking dude. I promise you, he’s nothing like Reacher.

Ever since the ending of 61 Hours, Reacher has been slowly making his way towards Virginia to meet the intriguing woman he had interacted with on the phone during that novel. The only problem is people in need of a serious ass kicking seem to constantly be getting in his way. Reacher, hitchhiking at an exit ramp, is picked up by a peculiar group that Reacher instantly realizes may be up to no good. Their transparent lies and strange dynamics are a big clue, not to mention the periodic roadblocks being set up by the police. Reacher knows that if there is no good afoot, then these guys may be the ones up to it and Reacher never lets no good happen when he’s around. While A Wanted Man has a lot of classic Reacher moments, it’s a much more low key cerebral thriller than the last few, kick ass and collect the dogtags Reacher action novels. Yet, I think the change of pace works. Lee Child has developed an intricate mystery that fits into Reacher’s idiosyncratic mental wheelhouse. Instead of a series of physical beat downs, Reacher spends much of the early part of the novel trying to pinpoint the problem based on word clues, body language and secret codes. The beginning of the novel takes a more stream of consciousness approach, with Reacher playing mental games as he drives the long lonely late night highways. Child also continues his theme of a healthy mistrust of governmental bureaucracies, with a look at how good agents are often hampered by a corrupt or inept institution. I do have to admit, at points of A Wanted Man, I became frustrated with Reacher. Sometime he is so sure of himself, and that his ways are the best ways, that of late, his choices end up complicating situations. For example, he decided to bully his way through situations, particularly a 911 call and his dealings with a hotel clerk that maybe a little finesse and interpersonal skills could have smoothed out, and been more productive. Yet, with all his cerebral skills, he still hasn’t developed interpersonal skills that work outside of the military. Now, all you fans of the ass kicking Reacher, don’t worry, he eventually shows up. A Wanted Man’s finale may be one of the more hyperkinetic, violent Reacher action scenes that should please the Reacher Creatures old and new. While the final mystery came off a bit pat, the trip to it and its violent conclusion should please most fans. All together, A Wanted Man is another winner in the Reacher series, it is a change of pace, cerebral thriller that fits well with our aging action hero. Yet, when the action does come, it’s quick and dirty and full of the things we love to see in a Reacher novel.

Dick Hill is the signature voice of Jack Reacher. It’s hard to picture Reacher without Hill’s deep sonorous, yet precise voicing of this character. Yet, there is an added challenge to A Wanted Man. Reacher is still suffering the injuries dealt to him at the end of Worth Dying for, including a broken nose. Due to this, Reacher is described multiple times in the book as sounding as if he had a cold. Dick Hill takes this to heart and gives Reacher a nasally, adenoidal voice. This voice fit the current condition of the character well, as was required by the plot, but sometimes, you just missed the wry wit and precise phrasing of non-nasally Reacher. Luckily, much of the story takes place in Reacher’s internal monologue, and we get the full Reacher treatment for that.  Hill also realized pretty early on that this was a more cerebral Reacher novel, and did a great job methodically laying out Reacher’s thought process. He gave the novel a more intricate pacing, slower with crisper annunciation that worked well, at least when nasally Reacher wasn’t actually verbalizing. A Wanted Man probably won’t go down as my favorite Reacher novel, but I believe it places solidly in the upper half of the series. Fans looking for immediate ass kickery may be disappointed, but the slower pacing reaps its own rewards.

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2 responses

20 09 2012
russell1200

Seems like the same idea as many of Spiderman’s enemies had in the classic days – don’t avoid him! Hunt him down, or lure him in to get your revenge!

21 09 2012
DevourerofBooks (@DevourerofBooks)

You’re seriously bringing the hilarity in the reviews this week. “The Tom Cruise looking guy?”

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