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Review: Despite sameness of Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels, 'Gone Tomorrow' satisfies

“I won't be wronged," says John Wayne's dying gunfighter in The Shootist. "I won't be insulted. I won't be laid a hand on. I don't do these things to other people, and I require the same from them."

Jack Reacher, hero of Lee Child's 13 novels, would approve. He has some other philosophies. Always move forward, is one. Get your retaliation in first, is another. Never do laundry, is a third.

Reacher is the perfect loner. He has a bank account and, in the later novels, an ATM card and a now-expired passport. He carries a travel toothbrush and some cash. No driver's license, no cell phone, no change of clothing. He has no home address, no car. A military kid and a 13-year veteran of the Army with a lifetime of going where he was sent, he is now determined to go where wind and whim take him.

He's a happy man.

Also a brutal one. He's the exact size of new Tampa Bay Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman (6-5, 250 pounds), and when Reacher hits people, which is frequently, they go to the hospital, if they're lucky.

Each book in the series is different, but also the same. Nothing to Lose begins as an existential puzzle, with Reacher halfway between Hope, Colo., and its neighbor Despair, and morphs into murder, metal recycling and the Apocalypse.

Gone Tomorrow begins with a suicide on a New York subway and winds through Washington, D.C., and Afghanistan. It's as good as the last, which was as good as the one before, etc. You can start the series almost anywhere, though there is something to be said for beginning with Killing Floor. There is no growth in character or plot devices; the series continues, but does not progress.

I do not say that disparagingly. The Reacher novels are intelligent and compulsively readable. Child's gift is for making the improbable plausible, and if in order to do so he feels compelled to tell you, say, the dimensions and provenance of a New York subway car, just enjoy the ride.

David L. Beck is a St. Petersburg writer and editor.

Gone Tomorrow

By Lee Child

Delacorte Press, 421 pages, $27

Review: Despite sameness of Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels, 'Gone Tomorrow' satisfies 07/04/09 [Last modified: Saturday, July 4, 2009 5:30am]

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