Lee Child isn’t content to establish a formula with his Jack Reacher series, and in Die Trying, he gives Jack a new set of challenges to meet, a less twisted mystery to solve, but a far more brutal adversary to defeat.
What I liked most about this story was the inside-out flavor of the storytelling. Child strikes this clear contrast to the detective story that Killing Floor tells, as Jack’s chief job is to protect and be protected by a female character who in no way resembles the damsel in distress. Child’s portrayal of Holly Johnson might be the best writing and characterization that Child has accomplished over the early course of the series (aside from the establishment of Jack Reacher himself, the clear foundation on which the stories rest), as she stands as tall as Reacher throughout the entire story, not just as a female version of the tough government/military agent, but as a key component to the story’s resolution.
The story itself is dramatic, exciting, and well-paced. Rather than tracking down a group of killers, Jack instead is presented with a terrific rival, face-to-face, from almost the start. Beau Borken is a memorable villain whose depravity Child develops as strongly as any of the two protagonists, a psychotic pseudo-prophet reminiscent of famous cult leaders whose aims are equally as disturbing. Child makes great use of any familiarity that the reader might have with secessionist militias to build the conflict, hallmarking it with some more genuinely disturbing acts of violence and allowing the brutal efficiency of Reachers’ intellect and reason to pave the way to a fantastic, exciting conclusion.
7/10 – This second adventure of Jack Reacher’s echoes the first on only the right notes, and while the inevitability of Reacher’s triumph undercuts the suspense to some extent, there’s something to be said for the reliability that Child establishes in just the second book in the lengthy, successful series.