Book Review: No Middle Name by Lee Child

No Middle Name
The Complete Collected Jack Reacher Stories
Lee Child
Delacorte Press, May 2017
ISBN 978-0-3995-9357-4
Hardcover

From the publisher:  Lee Child’s iconic anti-hero Jack Reacher is the stuff made of legend – a larger-than-life man who is “loved by women, feared by men, and respected by all”.  Now, following twelve consecutive #1 New York Times bestsellers, Child offers the ultimate Reacher reading experience . . . which includes an exciting, all-new Reacher novella, as well as Child’s eleven previously published short stories featuring Reacher. This pulse-pounding collection marks the first time that all of Lee Child’s short fiction starring Reacher has been available in the same place at the same time.  No Middle Name begins with “Too Much Time,” a new work of short fiction that finds Reacher in a hollowed-out town in Maine, where he witnesses a random bag-snatching but sees much more than a simple crime.  In his trademark tight and propulsive prose, Child sets Reacher and his “lizard brain” off for a case where there is more than meets the eye – and Reacher, as always, won’t rest until a wrong is righted.

The longest of these tales runs 68 pages, with most falling between 36 and 53 pages in length, the shortest running 4, 6, 10 and 11, but no matter the brevity or length, these are all tales of Jack Reacher, and that’s pretty much all it takes to make it a must read.  The very first, referred to in the previous quoted paragraph, was written contemporaneously, in 2017; the others between 1999 and 2016.  Reacher’s brother, Joe, makes an appearance more than once, which I found very interesting (Joe has been in previous books).  As readers know, Reacher is a military cop, at present 35 years old, a major with twelve years in, with rare attributes:  He is brilliant, with admirable reserves of intelligence and strengths (both mental and physical, at 6’ 5” and 250 pounds.   In one of the tales, which takes place in Paris, Reacher is 13 years old; in another, he is 16, and in another he is approaching 17.  One story is in Georgia, in 1989.  A few of the stories take place in New York City, primarily in sites in or around area bars in Greenwich Village.  (In another, Shea Stadium is referenced, with, unfortunately, the Mets losing to the Cubs by two to one.  (Full disclosure: I am a die-hard Mets fan.)  But Yankee Stadium gets a mention as well, although without a game in progress.)  And two of the tales take place on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, interestingly.

So obviously there is a wide range of geography and time found here, but the most (only?) crucial thing can be summed up in two words:  “Child” and “Reacher.”  And what could be better than that?

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, May 2017.

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Book Reviews: A Perfect Manhattan Murder by Tracy Kiely and Closing the Book on Santa Claus by Ron Chandler

A Perfect Manhattan Murder
A Nic and Nigel Mystery #3
Tracy Kiely
Midnight Ink, May 2017
ISBN: 978-0-7387-4524-4
Trade Paperback

If one reads a lot of crime fiction in various sub-genres, categorizing this novel is easy, just read page one. Indeed, the first paragraph will do it. Echoes of the best of the Golden Age mysteries from England, of the sophisticated not-quite-family-fare motion pictures of the late thirties and early forties, are here.

For the lover of the so-called Cozy Mystery, brought cleverly and carefully to the Twenty-first Century, this is a definite winner. For anyone hooked on Michael Connelly, Lee Child, the darker, more explicit often bloodier and more violent modern thrillers and even true mysteries, this novel could be a little disappointing. Still, for a clever plot, sharp, whizzing dialogue among the principals and scene after scene with the moneyed, beautiful people of New York, parading through elegant up-scale venues, I recommend this story.

Nic and Nigel Martini(!) are back in New York. Nic is a former NYPD detective who left the force to join her husband in a private investigator enterprise on the West Coast. They have been invited by a school chum of Nic to the Broadway opening of a play written by another schoolmate of Nic and Harper’s named Peggy McGrath. Readers are introduced to the players and soon, a thorn appears. The thorn is the husband of Harper. He is a prominent, curmudgeonly, popularly disliked, New York theatre critic who doesn’t seem to practice discretion or restraint in his articles. Predictably, he is soon found dead—murdered. His wife, Harper, is of course accused of the deed and Nic and Nigel swing into action to prove Harper innocent.

The pace is upscale, the dialogue is excellent and the author’s descriptions of place and atmosphere greatly enhance the overall feeling. Then, there is Skippy. Skippy is one of the largest and most unusual characters readers are likely to encounter. He is an adorable, lovely giant Bullmastiff. Skippy is three years old and fills up the room when he saunters in and sprawls on the carpet.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, July 2017.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

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Closing the Book on Santa Claus and Other Holiday Stories
Ron Chandler
CreateSpace, March 2015
ISBN: 9781508434900
Trade Paperback

Author Ron Chandler is a free-lance writer. This collection of nine holiday stories is aimed at people for whom the holiday season can be a bit much. Overwhelming, even. Heavy on the narrative side, the stories are all well-put together with a reasonable cast of varied characters and settings. Readers will find a range of emotional tides, all relating to human relationships and ultimately holiday satisfaction, if not the highest grade of cheer.

Probably the most interesting if bizarre story, is “Inside the Glamorous Life of Lady Plum,” in which the Lady in question experiences a startlingly wide range of life experiences. Like most collections of short fiction, the quality of the writing is a bit uneven, but overall readers should be satisfied. All in all, the slender paperback is a pleasant distraction from the pressures of the season.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, January 2017.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.