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THE MIDNIGHT LINE
Bantam/Penguin Random House
BY DENE MACKENZIE
Lee Child is one of the world's most successful writers, but lately it appeared as though he was just going through the motions.
There was a middling book of short stories and Night School was barely readable; not because of bad writing, rather it was the lack of a plot that made any sense.
Happily, Jack Reacher is back in full colour in The Midnight Line.
A different Reacher is on display here. Sure, he remains larger than life, attracts a nick-name of Big Foot, and travels lightly. However, Child has again written so well as to convey readers to the vast reaches of America's Midwest. As Reacher and his companions bounce across tracks deep into the mountains, readers will feel some of the bumps.
Long flat roads across plains where you see no-one for hundreds of miles (because you are in America), stretch out before the reader in the best possible way.
When The Midnight Line starts, Reacher is on a bus to nowhere in particular. He gets off to stretch his massive frame in an anonymous town when he notices a pawn shop displaying a West Point class ring from 2005. It is so small he knows it belongs to a woman, but what graduate of West Point would sell their class ring, he starts to wonder.
Reacher cuts short his trip, not that he was going anywhere special, and starts to look for the owner of the ring; an owner who worked hard to graduate. He wants to know how the ring came to be in the window.
After taking apart a bikie gang outside a bar, just to keep his credentials up, Reacher moves to Rapid City, South Dakota, to search for a link to the ring. He finds a laundromat business run by Arthur Scorpio.
These items are not spoiler alerts. A police detective is also watching Scorpio and a private detective, formerly army, is watching as well.
Reacher and the private detective eventually team up when they realise they are both seeking answers to different questions, although the same people are involved.
The main change in this book is that not all the so-called villains are bad people. Reacher is aware of the danger of the free drugs doled out to wounded army veterans.
There are plenty of twists and turns in the book. Do not rush a reading of The Midnight Line as, in this case, patience is rewarded.
Readers should take time to enjoy the scenery. The sparsely populated part of America where neighbours can be 30km away needs to be savoured.
Each Reacher book needs to have some part of the enduring legacy of Jack to keep fans happy. Because there are only so many ways a bikie gang can be subdued, it is a forgone conclusion that elbows and kicks to the back of knees will be employed.
Later, there are some nice touches in the way the real villains are dealt with.
The obligatory love scene is subtle and nicely underplayed.
Hopefully, The Midnight Line signals that Lee Child is back on song.
-Dene Mackenzie is ODT business and political editor, and has every Lee Child book.
Win a copy
The ODT has five copies of The Midnight Line, by Lee Child, to give away courtesy of Bantam/Penguin Random House. For your chance to win a copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and postal address in the body of the email and ‘‘Midnight Line’’ in the subject line, by 5pm on Tuesday, November 28.
LAST WEEK’S WINNERS
Winners of last week’s giveaway, Where the Past Begins, by Amy Tan, courtesy of Fourth Estate/HarperCollins, were: Mary Rillstone, Ann Ramathas and Chris Bain, of Dunedin, Lynda Hall-Jones, of Gore, and Raewyn McRitchie, of Queenstown.