One Shot by Lee Child (2005)
Jack Reacher is quite a guy. He stands 6 feet 5 inches without his high heels on. He farts and small nations crumble. When his stomach rumbles the stock markets tremble and shares drop. He’s that kinda fella. In this ninth instalment from his peregrinations, Jack is in Florida shagging the life out of a Norwegian cruise ship employee when he hears about a massacre in Indianapolis. Ordinarily, Reacher would ignore this kind of news, it’s hardly novel in the US these days, but in this case, the slaughter has been carried out by a sniper, and Reacher knows him.
The cops in the city of the massacre are doing well in their investigations. In fact they’re doing so well that no one stops to wonder why. Is it meant to be this easy when dealing with a highly trained professional killer, as James Barr is, all paid for by the good ole US Army? Police detective, Emerson, makes his arrest and it’s all by the book. They have the gun, the ammo, clothing fibres, boot marks, total forensic proof that Barr is their man. When they get him into an interview room, Barr asks only for Jack Reacher, and then refuses to speak.
Reacher eventually makes his way to the site of the killings. He speaks with the prosecuting DA, A.A. Rodin, and discovers that it’s a clean and cut case. The evidence is overwhelming and Rodin is quietly delighted. Reacher hears what he has to say and is then directed to the acting lawyer for the accused, Rodin’s idealistic daughter, Helen. When they meet, Helen is at a loss as to what Reacher’s angle is until he bluntly states, he’s there to ensure that Barr goes down, permanently.
It was during the Gulf War that Reacher first encountered Barr, when the military sniper went crazy and shot four men dead in Kuwait City. It turned out that the men were US soldiers on a rape and robbery spree, but Barr didn’t know that. He just wanted to know what it felt like to kill. Reacher, as an MP, was assigned the task of investigating the crime and catching the culprit which he did, very efficiently as it happened. But politics intervened and a cover-up ensued. Barr was released without charge, even being given an honourable discharge. Reacher was not impressed and swore to hunt Barr down if he ever did anything like that again. Hence big Jack’s visit to the Mid-West.
Helen Rodin is a determined, and attractive, young woman. She’s also very persuasive lawyer who convinces Reacher to check the facts surrounding the case. Jack believes that he’s wasting his time. The evidence is substantial. But there are certain items that rankle with him. He agrees. It’s during this research into the case that Reacher becomes more certain that Barr didn’t in fact commit the crimes he has been accused of. But how to prove this in face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary?
Enter the Zec and his crew of savage Russian mafia killers, all emigrants from the old Soviet Union. Chenko, Vladimir, Linksy, Raskin and Sokolov are scary guys. They will murder anyone on the Zecs orders. They feel nothing and will stop at nothing to get the job done. Jack Reacher shows up on their radar and suddenly they are faced with perhaps the biggest challenge of their dangerous lives. They have orders to stop the large wanderer, formerly US Army. It makes for an interesting match-up.
Reacher and Helen, aided by Franklin, a private investigator hired by Helen, begin to pick part the state’s case against James Barr, much to the relief of his loving sister. But the Russians turn up the heat considerably. As Jack gets closer to the truth, he also gets closer to a final showdown with men as bad as they come, men who have no fear of Jack Reacher. But are the Russians acting alone, or do they have something on the inside? Reacher has to find out to both help Barr and save his own bacon.
One Shot can be categorised as one of the earlier Reacher novels. That means that it’s one of the better ones, given the downward trajectory that Reacher novels have taken. It’s exciting, pacy and, to an extent, believable. Yes, there are some plot points that will raise eyebrows, Reacher’s questionable assault on a fortified hose for example. But mostly it’s OK.
The characters are consistent, if consistently implausible in Jack’s case, and easy to relate to. The story has its to-be-expected twists and turns and leaves just enough of a doubt in the reader’s mind to hold the attention to the very end. Reacher remains the likeable anti-hero we have come to admire but Rebel Voice cannot get past his resemblance to David Banner from The Incredible Hulk TV series. No they are not physically similar. But if you crossed the Hulk with his alter-ego Banner, then you would get Jack Reacher. The endings always bring to mind those of the TV series when Banner walks off into the sunset, a lonely man haunted by his past, who helps good people but can never enjoy peace in any one place. He hunted. Reacher is hunted, but only by himself, and we never do get a true sense of what propels Reacher to keep on the move. He does claim that his time within the regimented structures of the army have left him with a distaste for routine and predictability. That might be true up to a pint, but it doesn’t explain the constant wandering over a period of many years now. Perhaps, some day, Lee Child will provide us with a piece of Reacher’s backstory that we’ve so far been denied. What is could be, Rebel Voice can’t imagine as Reacher has been well explained by this stage.
This story is one of the good ones and sits well in the saga. The setting is bland in that it could be anywhere, and the city in which the massacre took place is never named. The conclusion is solid, although Rebel Voice must confess to having figured it out early. Aren’t we the clever fuckers! That said, it’s still a very decent book and should entertain fans and new-starters of Reacher alike.
Sult scale rating: 7 out of 10. A solid offering from Lee Child as Reacher investigates a mass shooting by a sniper. Initially there to help see the man burn, Jack changes his position and ends up trying to prove his innocence, albeit reluctantly. Throw in some nasty Russians, who are not even Commies!, and you get an interesting read. Jack Reacher in the early years was much superior to the parody of himself he later became.
Below are some of the endings of The Incredible Hulk TV series. Note Banner’s hitching to get around and his positive impact upon those he encounters. A working man’s Jack Reacher? As a child, this reviewer wanted to bring David Banner to live with us. He seemed so sad and lonely and in need of a safe place, although the Occupied Six Counties of Ireland might not have been the best for that. Still, imagine what a young boy could do at school with The Incredible Hulk as a friend. Schoolwork? I ain’t doing no damn schoolwork! Just try and make me! And get your grubby hands off me ham and cheese sandwich! David, Sean’s pissing me off! Get angry, really angry!
(the melody is called The Lonely Man and was composed by US pianist, Joe Harnell)