Blue Moon marks a turning point in the Jack Reacher series. The author, Lee Child, has officially turned over creative control to his brother, Andrew Grant. We will soon be reading and reviewing the latest Jack Reacher book, The Sentinel, to see if he is faithful to the style of the best Jack Reacher books.
But first, we wanted to offer this review of the last Jack Reacher book, Blue Moon, to have a fresh basis for comparison. So whether you are a devoted fan of the Jack Reacher books, or looking for an exciting new thriller series to sink your teeth into, read on!
Background On The Genre
Not many people know this, but our favorite Short Story Teller was inspired (both in comparison and in contrast) by Lee Child’s famous wandering protagonist, his Jack Reacher character.
There is a genre of fiction that is often (misleadingly) referred to as the American Western. Traditionally, this genre involved cowboys and gunfights, but historically, the Western hero archetype evolved from the medieval knight errant, or the Chinese Wuxia. These heroes are not defined by their period, but by their restless travels, or wanderlust.
This type of hero is effectively homeless, and travels from place to place in search of adventure. Each story begins when he arrives in a new town and becomes aware of the local conflict. Each story ends when he rides off into the sunset (or departs in some other dramatic fashion).
The Jack Reacher character is perhaps the best modern example of the wandering hero. Each novel begins in a new place. Reacher sees injustice, and fights the villains to restore justice. He inevitably leaves this place (and all of his new friends) behind at the end of each novel.
Jack Reacher Books in Reading Order
For the most part, the best Jack Reacher books can be read in any order. They were not written in chronological order. Only a few books have some minor continuity (mostly about Major Susan Turner, Reacher’s successor in the Army Special Investigators). Even these books can easily be understood and enjoyed in any order, though.
If you want to read the books in chronological order (instead of order of publication), however, here is the list of all of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books in order (both novels and short stories).
Lee Child has written some of these books in first person narration, but most of them in third person. The books written in first person are mentioned in the list below:
The Enemy (Published in 2004, this book was set eight years before the series officially starts. This book is written in first person.)
Night School (Published in 2016, this book includes more of Reacher’s Army career.)
The Affair (Published in 2011, this prequel explains the details of Reacher’s final Army assignment before quitting the service. First person.)
Killing Floor (This was the first published Jack Reacher novel in 1997, written in first person narration.)
Persuader (First person narration)
One Shot (One of the best Jack Reacher books, and the first to be made into a movie.)
Gone Tomorrow (First person narration)
61 Hours (This is the first book to mention the new commander of the 110th Special Investigators, Major Susan Turner. The next three books describe Reacher’s personal mission to meet her.)
Never Go Back (Another one of the best Jack Reacher books. Reacher finally meets his successor from the 110th Special Investigation Unit. Also, does Reacher have a daughter?)
Personal (First person narration.)
No Middle Name (Short story collection.)
The Sentinel (The first Jack Reacher novel co-authored by Andrew Grant.)
Jack Reacher Movies
Blue Moon Book Summary
As I describe the plot summary of Blue Moon, see if you can identify the key elements of a Western/Knight Errant/Wuxia story.
Reacher rides into town on a bus.
The only reason he gets off the bus in this new town is to protect an elderly man who is about to get robbed.
This gets Reacher tangled up between two rival foreign gangs, the Albanians and the Ukrainians.
After helping the vulnerable old man and his wife, Reacher also encounters a waitress (damsel-in-distress?) who is also a victim of the gangs.
As the gang warfare escalates, Reacher works his way up the ladder to the mastermind at the top of the Ukrainian operation.
Reacher assembles a posse of locals to assault the Ukrainian base of operations, kills the chief, and returns all of the stolen money.
Reacher rides out of town on the next bus, toward his next adventure.
The Good: Exciting, Tense Action and Fights
Where Lee Child really excels is in his step-by-step description of Reacher’s hand-to-hand combat. Although Reacher usually ends his fights in a matter of a few seconds, Child can draw the action out into several pages, each one more vivid and gripping than the last.
Reacher isn’t limited to unarmed combat, either. He frequently gets into gun fights, which are no less exhilarating than his fist fights.
And sometimes, Child creates tension and suspense with no fighting at all. Whether Reacher is surrounded by gangsters with guns, or trapped as a prisoner in the trunk of a car, I think you’ll find Blue Moon unputdownable!
The Bad: Dry Dialogue With No Variation In Voice
I personally love Reacher’s quick, dry wit. He always seems to have a cutting quip to deliver to his enemies right before they (unwisely) decide to fight him.
The problem is, everyone in the books speaks with the same tone of voice. This is because Child does not use any variation in dialogue tags (always ‘he said, she said’) and never uses any adverbs to describe their voices, or delivery of lines.
This particular deficiency of Child’s writing really came to light when I listened to Blue Moon on audiobook. Suddenly, the narrator was inflecting emotion into the voices that Child had completely ignored for 25 books! It was an amazing new experience.
I’ve also criticized the secondary characters for having nearly the exact same educational background as Reacher during these dialogues. It seems implausible that everyone Reacher meets would have the same knowledge about past presidents, pedantic etymology, and mathematical oddities.
Blue Moon was as enjoyable as the rest of the best Jack Reacher books. However, for the first time, Child seems to have alluded to some contemporary politics in the story. The plot concludes with a Russian misinformation campaign, which is perhaps the only connection to real-world current events that we have read in the entire series.
The Recommendation: Listen To Blue Moon On Audiobook.
I’ve been a die-hard Jack Reacher fan for nearly a decade now, and I can’t believe that I just discovered the audiobooks. I’m not typically an advocate of audiobooks; in fact, I almost always prefer the words on paper. But in Lee Child’s case, the voice of the narrator adds considerable improvement to the characters.
Also, if this is your first exposure to Jack Reacher, I recommend reading an earlier book. Personally, I prefer fiction that doesn’t directly address current events, or contemporary public figures. Start yourself off with 61 Hours, meet some other interesting characters, and learn a little background on the 110th MPs, and I think you’ll be totally hooked!
If you are another dedicated Reacher Reader, comment below and tell us your favorite books! What do you think will happen to Jack Reacher under a new author? Did you like the movie adaptations?
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