Some characters are dangerous but not evil. Some are evil but the danger is in their henchmen not in themselves personally. Others are the embodiment of evil and when executed correctly can really make a reader wish they could reach into the page and crush the character with all the force they could muster. Lee Child creates such a monstrous evil in the Jack Reacher novel Tripwire.
The confluence of events that brings Reacher into the sights of the evil incarnate are in themselves interesting and completely believable. Where Child excels in every Reacher novels is in the plausibility of the events and circumstances in which Reacher finds himself. In this case Reacher has been making a living for himself at that last frontier of anonymity – digging swimming pools in Key West. There is no better place to disappear than in manual labour in a city known for its transient population. Reacher is comfortable in Key West. He has a decent job digging pools that earns him more money than he needs to live on and he picks up money on the side as a bouncer in a strip club. All in all it is the kind of existence many men would be happy to occupy. Into Reacher's little world of contentment comes a sharp private eye who has been hired by a woman in New York to track Reacher down. The private eye is followed by two less attractive characters also trying to find Reacher. When the body of the private eye turns up sans finger tips and identification of any kind Reacher takes it upon himself to see what is happening in N.Y.C.
Tripwire is taunt and detailed the story and back story being woven with Child's trademark easy to read style and crisp dialogue. Reacher is ultimately a man who cannot leave a mystery alone which puts him on a collision course with a man who redefines what it is to be a bad person. If there is a reservation to be found in any of Lee Child's Reacher novels it is the persistent inclusion of amorous sidebars which do not always do anything to advance the story. It's as if Child watched all the Bond movies he could lay his hands on and read every Travis McGee novel and decided that a real tough guy beds what he can when he can. The story of Reacher, which is a longer story arch than any one novel, might need these assignations but it's hard not to get the feeling that they are little more than padding to otherwise tightly written plots. That aside Tripwire is a must in the Reacher collection and a definite book to add to your “books I have to get around to” list.