Audiobook Review: Never Go Back by Lee Child

4 09 2013

Never Go Back (Jack Reacher, Bk. 18) by Lee Child

Read by Dick Hill

Random House Audio

Length: 13 Hrs 43 Min

Genre: Thriller

Quick Thoughts: Despite some small disappointments along the way, Child creates another memorable Reacher tale, and adds some new little twists that should make even the most hardcore, surly Reacher fan break out into at least a contented smirk. Never Go Back is classic Jack Reacher, full of conspiracy, quick sudden violence, an idiosyncratic investigatory process and some surprising moments of heart.

Grade: B+

A few years ago (ahem, like maybe 15 or so) a coworker explained to me why he enjoyed the television show, Walker: Texas Ranger. Now, before this, I was a bit skeptical of the appeal of this show, and while I never became a fan, after this conversation I begun to understand why this show could garnish a solid fan base. My coworker explained that someone usually got their assed kicked in the first five minutes and last five minutes of every episode. Thinking about this, I found the formula to be pretty much solid. As I thought about it, any show staring Chuck Norris, and opening with a very strange country western diddy sung by the star itself, wouldn’t be bring in the audience searching for nuanced plots and clever dialogue. This is not a criticism in the least bit. I personally enjoy a action for action sake book, movie or TV show on occasion, as long as the show gives me plenty of what I am looking for, I am happy. While a Jack Reacher novel is often actually quite clever, with Reacher’s pedantic nature, obsession with numbers and strange way of thinking just as much a weapon in his arsenal as his brutish strength and well honed killer instincts, whenever I start a Reacher novel, I rarely think, "I can’t wait to see how Reacher’s love of numbers helps him solve his case." Now, I enjoy Reacher’s quirks, but my initial thoughts tend to be, "Hey, Can’t wait until Reacher kicks some douchebags ass." This is why in the last Reacher novel, I felt myself becoming more and more frustrated as the story progressed. At one point, I checked the time, and I realized it was 5 hours into the audiobook, and still Reacher hadn’t performed any of his patented asskickery. 5 HOURS! I mean, the book was interesting, and the set up unique, but Reacher not kicking someone’s ass in the first 5 hours seemed a bit wrong.  So, when I started Never Go Back, I was acutely aware of the asskicking clock…. which this time maxed out at 5 Minutes, before some asskicking was delivered, and all was right with the world. 

After traveling from North Dakota for about three or four books, to Washington DC, in order to meet Major Turner, the intriguing new CO of Reacher’s old command, based solely on the fact that he liked her voice, Reacher has finally arrived. Yet, when he shows up, he finds things amiss. Turner is missing, replaced by a cocky Lieutenant Colonel who uses a technicality to conscript Reacher back into the Army in order to force him to face charges for an alleged assault 16 years ago that Reacher doesn’t even remember. Yet, when Reacher discovers that Major Turner is in fact arrested, and some local soldiers attempt to intimidate him into running, he does what his current batch of enemies least want him to do, he sticks around stirring up trouble. Never Goes Back starts off with a bang, sucking me right into this latest tale with a wonderful set up, some over the top Reacher moments, and a complex conspiracy that only a person willing to do exactly what is least expected can crack open. Reacher, of course, is exactly this type of person. Honestly, you’d think the bad guys would finally realize that Reacher may be the worse guy to mess with, whether it’s a physical assault or a complicated frame job, pulling him into your shady business will never end well. Never Go Back combines Reacher’s typically brawler physical style and his intricate planning and investigatory style, telling a tale that puts it right up there with some of this series best. As always, the scenarios flirts with the edges of unbelievably and Reacher is either the luckiest bastard in the world, or just really THAT good. To make matters even more interesting, Child adds a new, personal element as a twist to Never Go Back that shows us a new side of Reacher, while filling the story with humor and heart. It’s nice to see a lighter side to a Reacher tale, while still filled with dark violence. Yet, it’s not all perfect. The pacing of this tale was a bit off balanced. It started out pretty explosive, and the first 5 hours are non-stop awesome, but there is a long stretch in the middle that is interesting, but drags a bit. Also, I felt the ending was a bit anticlimactic, without the big payoff in both revelation and violent confrontation that you want in a Reacher novel. I think this has to do with the fact that his powerful enemies, with seemingly unlimited resources were not much of a match in the end for a man with good walking boots and a toothbrush. Overall, I loved Never Go Back. I think moments of this tale will rival some of the most memorable of the series. Despite some small disappointments along the way, Child creates another memorable Reacher tale, and adds some new little twists that should make even the most hardcore, surly Reacher fan break out into at least a contented smirk.

I have to say that I am happy that Reacher’s injuries have healed up enough from A Wanted Man, that we can get back to classic Dick Hill Reacher and not the nasally version the previous audiobook required. Dick Hill is back in his classic Reacher form, bringing his meticulous, should I even say, pedantic wording, and sudden violent outburst alive for all us to revel in.  Listening to Dick Hill read a Jack Reacher novel is, for audiobook fans, like returning home, even if your home is walking down the long stretches of American Highways and byways. Never Go Back finds Dick Hill in fine Reacher form. This time there are no awkward train related sex scenes, or nasal issues, just Reacher and enough interesting peripheral characters for Hill to sink his larynx into. Hill’s inflection and cadence brings as much to the tale as Child’s writing does, allowing us to know just what kind of nothing Reacher is saying. As always, the bit of melancholy at the ending of the tale leaves just enough for me to long for the next Reacher novel the moment I complete the current one. Who knows what is next for out lone hero?

Thanks to Random House Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.

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2 responses

4 09 2013
Dave Thompson

I think Reacher didn’t kick any one’s ass in One Shot until close to 5 hours? I remember being surprised by the sudden violence, even though I knew that’s what the book was all about. But maybe I am misremembering the time.

What’s your favorite Reacher book, Bob?

28 09 2013
Benshy

Very nice review – I think I’m going to opt for the audio version instead of the actual book (that hasn’t impressed much in some of the reviews I’ve read). FYI, in an interview with Elaine Charles host of the Book Report radio show, Child spoke of his next book being called “20 Seconds ago”.

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