Child's tough but humane Jack Reacher is the coolest continuing series character now on offer.
- Stephen King, EW
Up close and personal. When Jack Reacher witnesses a suicide on a Manhattan subway, he knows that there is more than meets the eye. Soon he’s in deep, trying to unearth a dark secret for which both the feds and Al-Queda are willing to kill to keep from being revealed. Even in a city of eight million, a lone wolf like Reacher tends to stand out, and before long he is being hunted from all sides—which is exactly what Reacher wants.
Suicide bombers are easy to spot. They give out all kinds of tell-tale signs. Mostly because they’re nervous. By definition they’re all first-timers.
Israeli counterintelligence wrote the defensive playbook. They told us what to look for. They used pragmatic observation and psychological insight and came up with a list of behavioral indicators. I learned the list from an Israeli army captain twenty years ago. He swore by it. Therefore I swore by it too, because at the time I was on three weeks’ detached duty mostly about a yard from his shoulder, in Israel itself, in Jerusalem, on the West Bank, in the Lebanon, sometimes in Syria, sometimes in Jordan, on buses, in stores, on crowded sidewalks. I kept my eyes moving and my mind running free down the bullet points.
Twenty years later I still know the list. And my eyes still move. Pure habit. From another bunch of guys I learned another mantra: Look, don’t see, listen, don’t hear. The more you engage, the longer you survive.
The list is twelve points long if you’re looking at a male suspect. Eleven, if you’re looking at a woman. The difference is a fresh shave. Male bombers take off their beards. It helps them blend in. Makes them less suspicious. The result is paler skin on the lower half of the face. No recent exposure to the sun.
But I wasn’t interested in shaves.
I was working on the eleven-point list.
I was looking at a woman.
I was riding the subway, in New York City. The 6 train, the Lexington Avenue local, heading uptown, two o’clock in the morning. I had gotten on at Bleecker Street from the south end of the platform into a car that was empty except for five people. Subway cars feel small and intimate when they’re full. When they’re empty they feel vast and cavernous and lonely. At night their lights feel hotter and brighter, even though they’re the same lights they use in the day. They’re all the lights there are. I was sprawled on a two-person bench north of the end doors on the track side of the car. The other five passengers were all south of me on the long bench seats, in profile, side on, far from each other, staring blankly across the width of the car, three on the left and two on the right.
The car’s number was 7622. I once rode eight stops on the 6 train next to a crazy person who talked about the car we were in with the same kind of enthusiasm that most men reserve for sports or women. Therefore I knew that car number 7622 was an R142A model, the newest on the New York system, built by Kawasaki in Kobe, Japan, shipped over, trucked to the 207th Street yards, craned onto the tracks, towed down to 180th Street and tested. I knew it could run two hundred thousand miles without major attention. I knew its automated announcement system gave instructions in a man’s voice and information in a woman’s, which was claimed to be a coincidence but was really because the transportation chiefs believed such a division of labor was psychologically compelling. I knew the voices came from Bloomberg TV, but years before Mike became mayor. I knew there were six hundred R142As on the tracks and that each one was a fraction over 51 feet long and a little more than eight feet wide. I knew that the no-cab unit like we had been in then and I was in now had been designed to carry a maximum of forty people seated and up to 148 standing. The crazy person had been clear on all that data. I could see for myself that the car’s seats were blue plastic, the same shade as a late summer sky or a British Air Force uniform. I could see that its wall panels were molded from graffiti-resistant fiberglass. I could see its twin strips of advertisements running away from me where the wall panels met the roof. I could see small cheerful posters touting television shows and language instruction and easy college degrees and major earning opportunities.
I could see a police notice advising me: If you see something, say something.
The nearest passenger to me was a Hispanic woman. She was across the car from me, on my left, forward of the first set of doors, all alone on a bench built for eight, well off center. She was small, somewhere between thirty and fifty, and she looked very hot and very tired. She had a well-worn supermarket bag looped over her wrist and she was staring across at the empty place opposite with eyes too weary to be seeing much.
Next up was a man on the other side, maybe four feet further down the car. He was all alone on his own eight-person bench. He could have been from the Balkans, or the Black Sea. Dark hair, lined skin. He was sinewy, worn down by work and weather. He had his feet planted and he was leaning forward with his elbows on his knees. Not asleep, but close to it. Suspended animation, marking time, rocking with the movements of the train. He was about fifty, dressed in clothes far too young for him. Baggy jeans that reached only his calves, and an oversized NBA shirt with a player’s name on it that I didn’t recognize.
Third up was a woman who might have been West African. She was on the left, south of the center doors. Tired, inert, her black skin made dusty and gray by fatigue and the lights. She was wearing a colorful batik dress with a matching square of cloth tied over her hair. Her eyes were closed. I know New York reasonably well. I call myself a citizen of the world and New York the capital of the world, so I can make sense of the city the same way a Brit knows London or a Frenchman knows Paris. I’m familiar but not intimate with its habits. But it was an easy guess that any three people like these already seated on a late-night northbound 6 train south of Bleecker were office cleaners heading home from evening shifts around City Hall, or restaurant service workers from Chinatown or Little Italy. They were probably set for Hunts Point in the Bronx, or maybe all the way up to Pelham Bay, ready for short fitful sleeps before more long days.
The fourth and the fifth passengers were different.
The fifth was a man. He was maybe my age, wedged at forty-five degrees on the two-person bench diagonally opposite me, all the way across and down the length of the car. He was dressed casually but not cheaply. Chinos, and a golf shirt. He was awake. His eyes were fixed somewhere in front of him. Their focus changed and narrowed constantly, like he was alert and speculating. They reminded me of a ballplayer’s eyes. They had a certain canny, calculating shrewdness in them.
But it was passenger number four that I was looking at.
If you see something, say something.
She was seated on the right side of the car, all alone on the farther eight-person bench, across from and about halfway between the exhausted West African woman and the guy with the ballplayer’s eyes. She was white and probably in her forties. She was plain. She had black hair, neatly but unstylishly cut and too uniformly dark to be natural. She was dressed all in black. I could see her fairly well. The guy nearest to me on the right was still sitting forward and the V-shaped void between his bent back and the wall of the car made my line of sight uninterrupted except for a forest of stainless steel grab bars.
Not a perfect view, but good enough to ring every bell on the eleven-point list. The bullet headings lit up like cherries on a Vegas machine.
According to Israeli counterintelligence I was looking at a suicide bomber.
© Lee Child
- Child's writing is both propulsive and remarkably error-free, and he's expert at ratcheting up the tension... the bad guys are always telling him, 'Stay away from this,' 'You're out of your depth' and the ever-popular 'You got lucky.' You want to scream at them, 'This is Jack Reacher for pity's sake, he'll eat you for breakfast!' He will, you know, and that's why we keep coming back for more.
—Los Angeles Times
- Reacher is not easy to stop, even when the odds are 19 to 1, as they appear to be in the all-stops-out, bloodsplattered finale—a brilliant set piece that hits home with the impact of a Reacher head butt... Child grounds his hero’s hard body and hard-drive brain in believable detail, and he sets the action against a precisely described landscape (this is a superb New York novel, offering, among other things, a virtual user’s guide to the subway). If you’re a reader whose pulse pounds when a top-notch thriller writer hits his stride, and if you’re not afraid to watch the bullet hit its target, then it’s a safe bet that you’re already a Lee Child fan.
—Booklist, starred review
- All good thriller writers know how to build suspense and keep the pages turning, but only better ones deliver tight plots as well, and only the best allow the reader to match wits with both the hero and the author. Bestseller Child does all of that in spades... [He] sets things up subtly and ingeniously, then lets Reacher use both strength and guile to find his way to the exciting climax.
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
- No one kicks butt as entertainingly as Reacher.
Mr. Child is so good at what he does.
—Janet Maslin, The New York Times
- A compulsive page-turner head-and-shoulders above most of today's thriller writers.
—Omaha World Herald
[T]he ever-resourceful and vengeful Reacher takes on nearly a score of the bad guys in an exciting climax to an enthralling book that is as satisfying as its predecessors. Highly recommended.
—Library Journal, starred review
- [A] wild, gut-wrenching bloodfest through the glamorous and gritty streets of New York City. The suspense comes as fast as an uptown express train. The climax leaves you breathless and begging for more.
—George Hackett, Contributing Editor, Newsweek
- This is pure, escapist, fun, kick-butt fiction... Jack Reacher is so competent, so capable, so willing to open a can when a can needs to be opened, that it's a totally cathartic read! ... Who needs pasty vampire boys when you can read about that?
—Matron Down Under blog
- Read the prequel to GONE TOMORROW, the short story
Guy Walks Into a Bar... in The New York Times.
- Here's the animated video for GONE TOMORROW which accompanies BookandBeyond's UK eBook edition of NOTHING TO LOSE.