Publication Date: July 16, 2012
In Deep Down by Lee Child, Jack Reacher is called to Washington to go undercover. He’s told that there’s a risk to the mission, which is all about talking over drinks and finding out which of the four women is leaking weapons secrets to a foreign government.
I think the big question for this review probably involves authors releasing short stories relating to series between full-length series novels. Obviously, in this competitive market, it’s to keep up the enthusiasm for the next series novel, and usually, these stories help us fill in a blank for a character that we’ve come to love. Lee Child’s previous short story, Second Son (Kindle Single), which looks back into Reacher’s childhood, did just that. A lot of readers felt that the young Jack was too mature in his thinking, but for me, the character fit exactly with the storyline established. This Reacher with whom we reunite in 1986, not so much.
I’m going to start with a point I latched on to while reading and believe is the height of dumbassery in these kinds of stories and novels — Reacher is not alone, Stone Barrington does it (Stuart Woods), Mitch Rapp (Vince Flynn) and others I can name. The character is undercover on an assignment and pretty much has a wish to be “made” (as it’s called in the genre). Stone just tells folks, Mitch’s girlfriend screams it, and Reacher — barely into his non-investigation has the urge to just tell the women under suspicion who he is and for whom he works. As it happens, the baddie makes him pretty quick anyway, but then this is a short story.
Given that it was a short story, the first half of the story was set up along with a gratuitous stalking of a woman jogging culminating in her death at the hands of a baddie we never meet. The second part of the story, by comparison, felt rushed and wrapped up too easily. We know Reacher is a military mastermind so making the baddie the most obvious person of a group of women was maybe a little condescending to the reader. Probably not intentionally, but it really felt to this reader that the Reacher spirit we have come to know was missing. Is it to give us the feeling of being inside a military op with the too small suit and the shirt that reaches halfway down the arm and PX shoes? Much was made of what Reacher was wearing instead of that space being used to making sense of the resolution of the storyline.
Worse than anything previously mentioned is a little problem I have — and it’s a personal problem. I read this story and saw Tom Cruise in the main role. I have never been a Tom Cruise fan and to view him as Reacher (who is 6’5” and blond) is a little disconcerting. As stated, not Child’s fault. I hope as I go forward with the series and without the saturation of Cruise in Lee Child news, I can start seeing Reacher as a Dolph Lundgren type again.
One of the great virtues of a short story is to leave the reader wanting more. I did not want more of this story when it was done. It was not compelling and to my mind, we didn’t learn anything more about Reacher except when he was in the service, he wasn’t as driven as the man we see in the books. This story overall felt like it was something Child had to do that he wasn’t feeling.
All said this does not mean that I am not looking forward to the next Reacher novel, A Wanted Man: A Jack Reacher Novel, which is due to be released on September 11, 2012. As always, I will buy the novel on release day and expect to savor every literary bite.
Read an excerpt and buy Deep Down by Lee Child on