My Bookshelf to Yours: Reaching too much for violence

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Lee Child’s “Blue Moon: A Jack Reacher Novel” (2019) finds Reacher saving an elderly couple from a loan shark and battling two competing crime syndicates.

“Blue Moon,” the 24th installment in the Jack Reacher series, includes all the elements that fans have come to expect: Reacher drifts into town. He saves the good guys, trounces the bad and then — order restored — drifts back out of town.

This time around, the good guys are an elderly couple, Aaron and Maria Shevick, who have gone into hock to pay for their daughter’s cancer treatment.

And the bad guys this time around? They are everywhere. There is the loan shark, a would-be mugger and most importantly, the Albanian and Ukrainian crime syndicates that run the town.

True to form, Reacher confronts and vanquishes these bad guys, and, again true to form, he meets a temporary love interest, Abigail Gibson, described as “petite and gamine,” in sharp contrast to Reacher, who is massive, with long arms, a thick neck and “hands the size of dinner plates.”

For those who love the recurring detective genre, “Blue Moon” delivers. The pacing is good; the action is plentiful.

The line between good and bad is firmly drawn, and in these rather politically polarized times, the sharp demarcation between the two can be reassuring.

Who doesn’t long for a hero to make things right? Restore order to a disordered world.

In that respect, the series has delivered consistently.

Reacher is a great hero, the consummate loner, who ambles into town, fights the good fight and then leaves. He is a former major in the military police — intelligent and capable, with an internal moral compass that ensures he’s always on the right side of any issue.

When he sees an injustice, Reacher battles back until he wins. He has tenacity, which combined with his size and training, ensure there’s not a bad guy he can’t vanquish, not a wrong that he can’t right.

However, in “Blue Moon” Reacher’s heroism is difficult to discern. Yes, he beats up, and mostly kills, lots and lots of bad guys.

Yet, some of those kills aren’t necessary to advance the action of the book, and they aren’t necessary to establish order. The killings are gratuitous and a bit tedious.

Furthermore, they seem to suggest that Reacher has lost his moral compass.

If the killings were portrayed as being more outlandish, perhaps humorous in the vein of a Tarrantino movie, they could work. They would not be in line with everyone’s aesthetic, but they’d be easier to stomach.

As it is, the killings distract from “Blue Moon,” and prevent me from wholeheartedly recommending the book. For fans of the Jack Reacher series, the book’s worth reading.

For those who are not necessarily fans of the series but fans of detective fiction, I’d give the book a “maybe.” But for those who are fans neither of Reacher nor detective fiction, I’d say give the book a pass.

(Maureen Cooke has been writing, editing, and teaching others to write for the past 30 years. Currently, she’s working on a mystery novel and a memoir. She’s a member of the Corrales Writers’ Group.)

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