Love Child? Where to start with Jack Reacher

With Never Go Back, the latest Jack Reacher blockbuster novel from Lee Child out this coming week, we look at what the best book to read first might be…

Never Go Back

Since his debut novel, Killing Floor, which introduced his iconic maverick hero, Jack Reacher, Lee Child has become one of the world’s bestselling thriller writers. One Shot was filmed and released last year as Jack Reacher with Tom Cruise as the eponymous hero. If you haven’t read any Lee Child books yet – and it would seem the casting director of the film hadn’t – just do it. You won’t be disappointed.

You can see why Hollywood started with One Shot even though it’s actually the ninth book in the series, but we promise the book is still far better than the film and not a bad place to meet Mr Reacher for the first time. It’s got everything a movie needs in its plot. Jack is off gird. He’s not looking for trouble, but then…. Six shots. Five dead. A heartland city thrown into terror. Within hours a man is arrested, but there’s a catch. The accused gunman refuses to talk except for a single phrase: “Get Jack Reacher for me”. What could connect the ex-military cop to this psychopathic killer? You can almost hear the movie trailer voice-over man as you read that synopsis, can’t you?

Yet, why not start at the beginning if you have the chance? Killing Floor- the first book in the Jack Reacher series – is a classic Reacher novel, throwing him in at the deep end almost instantly. Accused of murdering his brother, Jack (which is definitely not short for John) has to clear his name by uncovering a massive counterfeiting conspiracy which stretches right across the US, far from the fictional town of Margrave, Georgia, where he finds himself.

Having said that, you don’t need to start at the beginning. You can happily read the books out of the set order they have appeared in since the Reacher novels regularly jump about in time. Indeed, one of the most recent books, The Affair, takes the reader right back to a major turning point in Reacher’s military career – six months before Killing Floor even begins. He refuses to accept the official line of an army investigation into the murder of a soldier’s girlfriend and takes it upon himself to seek out the truth. Told in the first person, in some ways this sixteenth novel is where Jack’s journey really begins.

But, every Lee Child fan will tell you a different book to start with to introduce you to the series. Many saw 2010′s 61 Hours as a career highlight with Jack in the middle of nowhere amidst the cold and wind of South Dakota. There, he appears to finally meet his match in a killer bent on preventing a woman from testifying in court… It’s edge of the seat stuff yet again, and the book is another where events from Reacher’s past seep into his present.

Why not even start with Never Go Back - the latest novel publishing this week? Finally in Virginia after a prolonged stay in South Dakota, and with nowhere else to go, Jack arrives at the headquarters of his old elite army unit – the 110th MP. He’s expecting to meet the new head of the unit, Major Susan Turner, who he has spoken to on the phone before his arrival – but she is nowhere to be found. Next thing he knows he is accused of the murder of a sixteen-year-old and his world turns upside down once again.

Since Lee Child writes each of the Reacher books in such a way that they can be read entirely as stand alone stories, there really is no bad place to start with them.

The worst mistake you can make is not reading them at all.

Dan Lewis, for Waterstones.com/blog

Read a sample of Never Go Back

Last chance to pre-order Never Go Back at half price now at Waterstones.com (offer ends 29th August, 2013)

What do you think?