Monday, September 10, 2012

Book Review: A Wanted Man by Lee Child

A Wanted Man has managed to put me into a dilemma. How do I rate this book? Should I give it a four star or a three star review? At first I went for four, but then I’ve changed my mind, since, well, this is Lee Child we’re talking about and, like it or not, we expect better from him.

No, I’m not saying that this is not a good book, it is; what I’m saying is that it could be much better. To start with it could be a bit, or rather more than a bit, shorter. There’s just not enough juice in the story, to make it so long, and I think the author himself knew that, and that’s why he started improvising, adding math statistics and… blinks into the equation. Then there are some overwritten scenes. And finally we have that one-man-army act that’s really hard to believe even if you are a hardcore Jack Reacher fan.

To the story now. It all begins when a car stops to give Reacher a ride in the dead of the night. There are two men and a woman in it, which of course, is not by itself something strange. What’s strange though is the fact that even though the men seem to know each other well, the woman acts like she’s a complete stranger, as if she doesn’t belong there. And that, somehow, doesn’t raise any alarms in Reacher’s mind, though it does raise a couple of questions which he hurriedly brushes aside.

The ride though will not prove as easy as he wanted it to be. For starters they encounter a couple of police roadblocks in the almost deserted highway leading away from Omaha, and then one of the men asks him to drive, something he’s not too eager to do, since he’s not the best of drivers.

As the journey continues the mystery deepens, and as the background information accumulates, it starts to take form. Later rather than sooner Reacher realizes that there’s something fishy going on. It’s not only the men’s disposition that makes him suspicious, but also the message, a kind of Morse-code-with-the-eyes that the woman, Karen, blinks to him from the back sit: M-Y-C-A-R.

By the time he decides to take action though it’s too late already. He’s left behind at a motel reception, after an incident with one of the men, and now he’s determined to right his wrongs and save the woman from whatever the two perps have in store for her. But to do that he needs help, which he receives from an unexpected source: a female agent of the FBI.

Despite the fact that they are suspicious of each other, the two of them decide to work together for the hostage’s sake, while trying at the same time to sort out, how it all began. In the meantime, the CIA and the State Department are trying to intervene with the case, and as the truth comes out bit by bit, we come to realize that there’s more to the story than we thought. The finale arrives with a bang, but the slow-drawn events that led to it, take away some of the reading pleasure.

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