Better Off Dead
November 15, 2021

Book Review

Better Off Dead

reviewed by Lou Jacobs

 

Not to worry Reacher fans, your next guilty pleasure has arrived. The torch is being successfully passed from Lee Child to his younger brother, Andrew Child (aka Andrew Grant).

The voice of our beloved iconic hero, Jack Reacher lives on, although somewhat more loquacious, his inimitable style of conflict resolution with action and violence in support of the challenged victim shines on. Although this is the 26th in the action thriller Reacher series, it can be enjoyed as a standalone. As always, the necessary backstory is seamlessly laid in.

Reacher, in his typical nomadic style, is traveling by bus and hitchhiking toward the Pacific Ocean. Carrying a toothbrush in his pocket and only the clothes on his back, he endures thanks to the moral compass in his soul.

As he approaches a backwater town near the Arizona-Mexico border, he comes upon the unbelievable: a jeep plowed into the only tree for miles, with a woman slumped over the steering wheel. All is not what it seems! We are immediately dumped into a scene out of a Bruce Lee movie. Reacher faces off against four thugs, all at least six-two and weighing more than two-hundred pounds. A detailed vivid fight sequence ramps up with Reacher ultimately beating them all to a pulp, with their resultant demoralizing bodily injury—but with the end result Reacher being shot in the chest by Michaela Fenton.

Fenton is a seasoned veteran of the Gulf Wars and ex-FBI specialist, who is in search of her twin brother, Michael. She was the woman slumped over the steering wheel, and was faced with a seemingly impossible task of penetrating the criminal organization that her brother, was involved with. She had received a message from him … “M – Help!” Written on the back of a business card from the Red Roan (a cafe in this town) accompanied by a condom. Fenton did not understand the significance of the condom, but certainly understood the cry for help. Reacher recognized her seemingly impossible plight and offered his service; and together formulated an intricate plan to infiltrate the criminal enterprise of the shadowy boss, Waad Dendoncker, involved in smuggling drugs, weapons and probably in making and distribution of bombs—with an ominous payload and probable national security implication. Michael is himself a veteran of multiple tours in Afghanistan (his specialty involving bombs—mostly their safe disposal). Fenton was aware of her brother’s disillusionment and disgust of the government and was fearful that he was involved with making bombs for Dendoncker. Interesting was the fact that his business venture operated under the name of Pie In The Sky, Inc. And, just where is the destination of these bombs?

Andrew Child, with some help by his brother, Lee , crafts a masterful and complex narrative that incrementally ratchets up tension, intrigue, and suspense with the expected Reacher action and violence that escalates into a barn-burning denouement. Featured are multiple well fleshed out sinister characters that propel the action into an addictive page-turner. I look forward to the eventual thriller penned alone by Andrew Child.

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House publishing for providing an Uncorrected Proof in exchange for an honest review. For those younger fans of Reacher, unfamiliar with the television of the late 50’s and early 60’s I would suggest retrieving episodes of Richard Boone’s creation of “Paladin” for the series, “Have Gun-Will Travel” for an extended Reacher-like fix.

Better Off Dead available at:

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