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Crime & Beyond met on Monday to discuss Never Go Back, book 18 in Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series. Janice was kind enough to lead the discussion and since we’ve read Lee Child before, there really wasn’t much new information she could give us about the author. Instead, she facilitated a Jack Reacher/Lee Child quiz. Jeff won the quiz with a sad score of 6 out of 10. I don’t know where his head was, I expected nothing less than a 9. But since he didn’t need either of the books that were being given away as prizes, he allowed them to go to the two runners up. I believe he said it was still a pleasure to kick all your butts in the quiz, and that was prize enough. Did I get that right Jeff? [Did I say that out loud?-ed.]

In Never Go Back, Reacher finally makes it to Virginia to meet Turner, the army officer he spoke to in a previous book who had the nice voice. Determined to meet her, he travels across the country only to find that she’s been arrested and being held in an army prison. Reacher knows Turner is innocent, how could someone with a voice like that be guilty? But when he starts to get involved he is reinstated to the army and charged with causing the death of a guy he beat up 16 years ago (what, Reacher beat someone up?) and is told that there is also another issue - a woman is claiming that she gave birth to his child. Said child is now a teenager and living in California with her mother. So Reacher does what anyone would do, he breaks himself and Turner out of prison and they go on the lam (that word just doesn’t get enough use these days).

As they evade capture, there’s an unraveling of a top level conspiracy involving an opium den in DC. There’s also some hanky panky and some throwing out and buying of new clothes. Oh yeah, and a confrontation with a bunch of cousins of a dead meth head and an airplane ride where Reacher breaks one guys fingers and another guy’s arms without anyone on the flight finding out.

Lastly, Reacher finds out that he is not a father after all, but you can tell he’s a bit saddened by the fact. After meeting the girl, he kind of got a little used to the idea that maybe she was his daughter. He even envisions settling down with turner for about five seconds, before his brain kicks back into his head and leaves his $5 Walmart pants, where it has been quite a bit.

As much as some members of our little group have vowed not to ever go back to another Jack Reacher book, we still had some favorable reviews. Of the 14 people who read and reviewed the book, it received 9 scores that were either a 7 or an 8. That leaves 5 scores that were as low as a 1 and as high as a 5. We had a couple of Jack Reacher newbies and Pat, for one, has vowed that it will be her first AND her last.

The negative comments about the book mainly dealt with the unbelievability of everything. It read like a car chase movie, had no depth, was redundant, and was just plain boring. The opium out of Afghanistan was a bit cliché too. Some of the things that weren’t particularly realistic included the fact that the good old boys let Reacher go with all the money, and let him trade the car for a truck after he beat up the two chosen guys with his hands behind his back. Chris felt sure that those good old boys would not have given in so easily. Cindy very rightly pointed out that the other thing that seemed a bit impossible was the fact that Reacher was able to squeeze into an airplane bathroom with another grown man in order to break both his arms without anyone being the wiser. I am 5 feet tall and I have trouble closing myself into those bathrooms, so I can’t picture Reacher at 6’5” and 250 lbs being able to even get in there himself, let alone with another man. (Did you notice the reference to the quiz? 6’5” and 250 lbs? Be careful readers, there is still another quiz this year).

For those who were able to suspend their hold on reality, it was a fun read and very entertaining and interesting. We liked the possible fatherhood angle because it showed some vulnerability in our manly man. Raj liked how daring Reacher’s character was. Linda and Denise were both sad, as were many others I bet, that his character didn’t go further with Turner. They seemed to be very similar personalities and if we could ever picture Reacher settling down, I think it would be with someone like Turner. But alas, you can’t tame Jack – or Lee Child would have to stop writing.

Some of us who have read other Reacher books commented that this one was less entertaining than some of the earlier ones. I know that I enjoy the ones where he has to puzzle out a problem that I as a reader can puzzle with him (like why the quarter in the parking meter had no fingerprint). I didn’t know any back story about the two army guys who were importing opium, so I wasn’t really along for that ride and just had to take information as it was fed to me. But like any series, there are going to be ones you like a lot and ones that you don’t like as much.

Jeff likes Reacher’s character and approach to life. I think we all envy something about his simplistic life and lack of anything to tie him down – if even just for a minute. Janice compared him to James Bond. Dave and Jody thought this was a popcorn installment in the series, but both gave it an 8, so you can see that popcorn isn’t a bad thing.

We found two instances where we may have been Daisy’d. Kim and I think that it was a bit of a Daisy when Turner and Reacher came across the burning Meth Lab with the dead guy, and just happened to find the cash in the outhouse and keys for the car so that their time on the lam would work. They needed wheels and cash (so that they weren’t tracked by credit card or ATM) and viola, enter burning meth lab. I mean really! Dave thought it was also a bit of a Daisy when Reacher met the girl who could have been his daughter and she used the word pedantic right after he had used it to Turner. I don’t know about you, but I never use the word pedantic. So I will give Dave his Daisy and he has given me mine.

Pat and Judy both mentioned that this was a car chase movie type of book and Dave said it read like a screen play. So our handy dandy IT guru Jeff looked it up on his magic iPad and sure enough, this book is going to be used for the next Reacher movie. Tom Cruise has to pay his child support after all. So we’ll wait and see when the movie comes out and plan a field trip.

Jeff has already put the new Reacher book on the book list for voting in October. We got some grumbles from the peanut gallery, so I will use this time to remind everyone that we are a democracy and VOTE on our books. So if a book is chosen, we have only ourselves to blame. If you didn’t vote one in and/or don’t want to read any given book, you don’t have to. You can even skip a meeting too, we won’t hold it against you.

Kim made cookies and they were sooo good. This time they had Rolo candies in them. I managed to only eat three, a personal best I think.

September has arrived (insert trumpets here) and the waiting is over. We will FINALLY be reading and discussing a Nicci French book. It only took Dave 3 years to get one on the docket and it’s finally here (more trumpets). He will be leading the discussion AND providing a tasty snack, no doubt related to an aspect in the book. We passed all the books out and a few were given away as prizes over the last few months, due to the low quantity at the library and the hype the author has gotten – all Dave’s hype of course. So if you own a book and are willing to share with a friend, please do. If you have a library copy, you know the drill.

As I mentioned above, we will be voting in October on six books for January-June of 2015. Please either email me author/book ideas, or go on BookMovement and put them on the list. You have until mid-October.

See you in September,

Kerry

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