I’d never read a Jack Reacher book before and was a bit surprised that he is 6’5” and Tom Cruise is playing the part. Having only read the one book, I don’t know why Reacher, former cop and war veteran, is a one-man vigilante, bound to seek justice for the little guy (and gal). Whatever the reason, he is certainly good at it. I guess this was sort of Die Hard in a book.
In Worth Dying For, Reacher finds himself in a very small town in Nebraska where the Duncan family plays a local, minor mafia. When Reacher sees that Eleanor Duncan, the wife of one of these bad guys, has an unstoppable bloody nose, he realizes that her husband, Seth, beats her. So he finds Seth and breaks his nose just to give him an idea of what it feels like.
But more trouble is afoot—the Duncans are not only abusive, they are criminals who force the local farmers to use their trucking company to transport their crops. And they seem to have been involved in the disappearance of an eight-year-old neighbor girl 25 years earlier. But why? And where did Seth Duncan, the adopted son of one of the three Duncan brothers, come from? No one is allowed to question them. The Duncans employ former Nebraska Cornhusker football players as henchmen. (I have a feeling that Cornhusker alumni don’t like this book much.) Everyone in the town is so afraid of the Duncan family that they have formed a phone tree to always let one another know what the Duncans are doing.
When Reacher starts snooping around, the Duncans need to have him taken out. As he is too much for the former football players, they seek help from their criminal contacts all the way from Las Vegas. Everyone gets in on the plan to kill Reacher because they all depend on illegal shipments by the Duncan family trucking business. What these shipments are is one of the mysteries for the reader to figure out.
I can understand why some readers would like Jack Reacher novels. Honest. But I hated this one, so it’ll be my last Jack Reacher novel. He gets out of trouble way too easily for me. I wish the author would have allowed him to have a few big fails—the kind that make readers worry about the protagonist and become invested in him.
The other thing about me is that I can only take so many descriptions of how to break noses—and even fewer on how to pop them back into place. Only so many descriptions of kicking and blowing things up—at least ones that include exact measurements of the sizes of all equipment and all body parts involved. How many centimeters between the bridge of the nose and the center of the forehead? I really don’t care.
I also don’t like it when the writing tends toward this sort of thing: ‘A car was coming down the road. It was red, but you couldn’t tell in the dark. It looked blue or gray or black—something not light, like white or yellow. Reacher knew that the car could turn left away from him. He knew that it could turn right toward him.’ (No—not a direct quote, just close.) Honestly, as much action as there is in this book, as much repetitive and gratuitous violence, it was surprising how it just seemed to drag on and on because of the monotony of the descriptions (including all those measurements.) I thought it would never end, but I stuck with it because I had invested so much time in it. By the time I finally finished, the movie had already been out for several weeks.
The end of this book, the disappearance mystery, the revelation of illegal product that the Duncans are transporting—that was very good. And the description of victims is the most understated, best writing in the entire novel. It worked beautifully, and made me wish the rest of the book had been written that way. Good as that ending was, it just took me too long to get there to want to try another book in the series. But, my taste in this matter is probably in the minority. High school guys may like the Jack Reacher books in the same way that they like violent action films. If so, there are many titles in the series available at our local public library.