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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
The third Jack Reacher adventure finds the ex-military policeman living in Key West, digging pools by day and working as a bouncer by night. After three months in the islands, Reacher is settling in to his relaxed lifestyle and thinking of staying for good. But his idyll is interrupted when he is approached twice in one day for information on one Jack Reacher, first by an amiable private investigator named Costello, then by a pair of hulking thugs hot on Costello's trail. Reacher sidesteps their questions by denying his identity, but is drawn into matters after Costello is found dead, the victim of a savage beating apparently administered by the two thugs.
Anxious to know what inspired this violence, Reacher tracks the detective to New York, where he discovers Costello was hired by a "Mrs. Jacob." Visiting Mrs. Jacob's home, a surprised Reacher is pleased to learn Mrs. Jacob is actually the former Jodie Garber, daughter of the recently deceased General Garber, Reacher's mentor and commanding officer when he worked with the military police. Jodie informs Reacher that her father was trying to contact him to request his assistance in uncovering the truth about a Vietnam-era MIA.
Reacher agrees to finish the job Garber started, bringing him into direct conflict with the men who killed Costello and with their boss, "Hook" Hobie, a horribly scarred master criminal who is only hours away from making the biggest score of his life. Hobie has a dark past, the details of which will upset his current operation should they come to light. Reacher's investigations put him on acollisioncourse with the sadistic Hobie, who, as his nickname implies, sports a metal hook on his right hand. Both Reacher and Hobie pursue their agendas, inching ever closer to their inevitable conflict at book's end, a bloody battle that leaves only one of them standing.
In reviews of previous Reacher books, Child was often criticized for relying too heavily on coincidence. Perhaps reacting to those comments, Child is more deliberate here — beneath the carnage and breakneck pace lies a carefully constructed, believable plot. But in the final analysis, it's not plot that recommends this novel. Rather, it's Child's cinematic approach to action scenes —Tripwire contains several brilliant sequences, each stunning in its profound violence and skillful execution. Child's approach to suspense is similar to Alfred Hitchcock's — although the audience thinks it knows what's coming, Child still manages to confound expectations.
In the hands of a lesser writer, this story could have easily spun out of control, lapsing into self-parody. Child, however, takes great pains to balance larger-than-life characters like Reacher and Hobie with a convincing supporting cast, using them to ground the novel in reality. He is also careful to show other sides of Reacher, who, with his impressive physical stature and penchant for violence, evokes such legendary fictional tough guys as Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer and Richard Stark's Parker. Yes, Reacher can take out a roomful of gunmen without breaking a sweat, but he's easily flustered by the woman he loves. A cool, competent, insightful investigator, he blanches at the very concept of home ownership. These small touches humanize Reacher, adding to his credibility.
Fans new to the Jack Reacher saga are to be envied — after finishing Tripwire, they can pick up its two predecessors, the multiple award-winning KILLING FLOOR and the equally well-received DIE TRYING. Those of us who have already read these thrillers will simply have to be patient and wait for the next installment. —Hank Wagner