I read the advance reading copy of Personal by Lee Child on the planes and in the airports between Gulfport, Mississippi and Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Then I tried to figure out what could be said in a review of a book that killed time predictably during a day of travel. I could honestly report that it had accomplished the purpose for which I had chosen it, but Jack Reacher can be counted on to bring justice to the criminal just like Hercule Poirot, Perry Mason, or Leroy Jethro Gibbs. That’s not new or different.
Lee Child solved my quandry for me in a book release interview on CBS This Morning. He told about watching his father search for a new book and asking him what kind of book he was looking for. His father said he was looking for one that was “the same, but different.” Those of us who retreat for pleasure to Agatha Christie or NCIS understand what he meant. Lee Child understands as well and said that was his aim when he wrote – to create something that was the same, but different.
This book, which sets Jack Reacher up as the target in the beginning, takes place in exotic places like Paris, London, and Arkansas. The international pursuit begins after a sharpshooter takes aim at the president of France. The CIA and its international counterparts give Jack a call and the chase is on. He soon recognizes the gunman as a criminal he caught once before and sent to prison for fifteen years. The shooter’s grudge against Jack is personal.
Reacher’s comfortably predictable misgivings about working with Casey Nice, a young female rookie, the series of dangers and near misses, and ultimate success satisfy the thriller fan looking for same, but different. I found Personal to be perfect airplane reading. It took my mind off the guy hogging the arm rest in the other seat.