Super-detective Jack Reacher stars in Lee Child’s taut ‘Tripwire’

May 21, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
May 21, 2013

Jack Reacher, the über-capable fictional former Army detective, made his feature film debut in the 2012 movie that bears his name. But the ex-MP who could has been around since 1997, when England-born Lee Child released Killing Floor, the first of what is now a 16-book series.

Some months ago, I read and enjoyed Echo Burning, which lists as the seventh Reacher book in its narrative (not real-world publication) chronology. A few weeks ago, I began Tripwire, which dates to 1999.

The story begins when a New York City detective searching for Reacher encounters our hero in a strip club in the Florida Keys. Reacher, wary of attention, lies about his identity. A few hours later, the detective is dead, and the hero knows that he must find out who killed him and why.

The quest leads Reacher to the New York City suburbs, where he unexpectedly finds himself attending a wake for his friend and former commanding officer, Leon Garber. Yet this discovery, like many in Tripwire, simply leads to more questions. Jodie Garber has been searching for Reacher because that was what her father was doing. But why was Leon doing so?

As Reacher explores the various mysteries, Tripwire makes us intimately familiar with the man who will turn out to be his archenemy. The villain is one Hook Hobie, a Wall Street lender of last resort who is desperate for his true identity to remain secret. He’s also a badly scarred one-handed sadistic murderer who uses torture as a form of stress relief.

Hobie is a thoroughly loathsome and frightening villain. The depths of his depravity are aptly suggested by scenes featuring Hobie’s latest corporate borrower and his wife, who struggle to avoid being added to his body count.

While I enjoyed this novel, I found myself losing patience at times, and I was somewhat relieved to finish it. (It runs just over 400 pages.) This may be not so much due to the book itself, which is proficiently written and well plotted, as to personal taste: Recently, I read a handful of pages of David Baldacci’s (seemingly very lengthy) Hour Game before abandoning the effort as not being worth while. Maybe I’m just off thrillers for the moment.


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