Publication Date: January 26, 2012
The Agents Kim Otto and Carlos Gasper are assigned to search for a man named Jack Reacher (Lee Child’s character) in order to recruit him for a job with the FBI — the nature of which is unknown to them. They’re directed to start in the place he was last known to be, in Margrave, Georgia, 15 years after he was known to have left. This novel retraces events and characters in Child’s first Jack Reacher novel, Killing Floor (Jack Reacher) (2006).
I’m a pretty big Reacher fan and that Lee Child mentioned this book specifically made me curious. Don’t Know Jack (The Hunt For Jack Reacher Series Book 1) is essentially a fan fiction. There are unique events and characters, but the base retraces an already released novel with already published characters. In my mind, Child’s implied endorsement suggested something that this novel simply wasn’t—quality.
From the moment Agent Otto is rushing to make the plane and puts on make-up, but not underpants, I knew her actions didn’t bode well. The narrative throughout is bogged down in minutia, and the writing lacks the flow to keep the reader entranced. I found myself stopping frequently for true “WTF” moments. There’s a passage in which Otto and Gaspar jump from a jet bridge onto a plane. Now, in the book, to that point and after, much is made about Gaspar’s limp, and we know from him that he suffers from severe physical pain of a nature to make us doubt he could have made such a leap, but the author is not as bothered by this as this reader. Also, FBI agents or not (and they’re supposed to be under the radar) tell me that wouldn’t cause airport security to swarm the plane and the plane to turn back. Suspending disbelief may have worked if I hadn’t been hampered with unnecessary details and the lacking in actual substance.
Otto and Gasper are horrible FBI agents. The conclusions they jump to are obvious and often erroneous. Otto makes snap judgments and is herself a massive tool (in a metaphorical sense). She sees Reacher as a killer and a psychopath. She has a hostility toward him that’s unwarranted. When they meet Roscoe, the cop with whom Reacher involves himself in the first novel, and Roscoe cries at the sight of Reacher’s picture, Otto assumes that Reacher has committed some heinous and horrible crime against her. No basis other than tears.
One thing I want to touch on that I think is a hallmark of fan fiction is irrationality of reactions. I know that a lot of us who write fan fiction do it for fun and are not experienced writers so we don’t have the techniques and devices that are the hallmarks of the trained professionals. Roscoe especially, has reactions that are far out of bounds—the sort of reactions that happen before soaps go to commercials. Roscoe blows up one minute and then allows them into her investigation the next and then blows up again. It’s a very female reaction, for lack of better phrasing. We meet huge with huge, but there are degrees of revelation and degrees of reaction, and I don’t think this author gets that concept.
I do find interesting that Don’t Know Jack (The Hunt For Jack Reacher Series Book 1) has, at the start, a long paragraph about how reading a book you haven’t bought is stealing from the author, and if you have borrowed this book, you should buy a copy immediately. There is a very weak secondary plotline involving the murder of a deputy which is a massive and deep conspiracy (that makes little sense), but aside from that and the agents, the novel are a retread of characters and events from Killing Floor (Jack Reacher). I hope that Child is getting a royalty on sales.
In my opinion, Don’t Know Jack (The Hunt For Jack Reacher Series Book 1) was a waste of money and time. The story was illogical, contrived and extremely poorly written. I’d advise fans of Reacher to wait for the next book or, if you’re feeling the need for a Reacher fix, read one of Child’s old books, which are always outstanding.
The next Reacher novel, A Wanted Man (Jack Reacher) will be released on September 25, 2012.