Jack Reacher Novels: What Makes Them so Appealing?

Updated on January 13, 2017
PegCole17 profile image

Peggy Cole is a self-published author who enjoys writing short stories, book reviews and articles about simpler times.

Jack Reacher eBooks on my Kindle
Jack Reacher eBooks on my Kindle

What makes this protagonist so likable? It's probably not his wardrobe. He owns only one set of clothes and wears the same thing for days at a time, pressing the outfit by tucking it neatly under his mattress. Then, he throws the shirt and pants away, usually in the trash bin at the place where he buys a replacement outfit. He doesn't like baggage.

He is insubordinate, multi-talented, well-traveled, a drifter, extremely tall at six-foot five, muscular, and owns some nasty looking scars. He has a built in internal clock that lets him know the time of day within seconds and eliminates the need for an alarm clock. Better yet, his powers of deductive reasoning rival those of Sherlock Holmes.

Maybe the reader identifies with him because he's a man's man. He goes far out of his way to protect a damsel in distress. Whether it's a sister figure, like Jodie, the daughter of his former commanding officer, or a small child, or even a stripper, he takes on the challenge of setting things right when it comes to women or the vulnerable.

Killing Floor, Introducing Jack Reacher


Killing Floor was the first Lee Child novel to introduce Jack Reacher as the main character. In the story, the author piles on layers of intrigue, driving the reader onward beyond curiosity; driven by the need to find out more detail. The setting is a quiet Southern town, incredibly idyllic. It's the kind of place where most people wish they'd grown up. But when the layers of reality peel back, the ugly truth about the town and the people who work and live there paints an entirely different picture.

Through lots of action and non-stop battered corpses, this action figure battles his way toward the secret that, once revealed, changes everything.

Tripwire, A Jack Reacher Novel by Lee Child

In Tripwire, Child creates a heinous villain whose stock market profiteering and treachery stretches back to his time in Vietnam. He's the sort of criminal that lacks any degree of conscience or sense of decency. Throughout the mystery, the victims multiply and Jack Reacher comes close to becoming another body on a slab.

In a rare phase where he's actively involved with the daughter of his former commanding officer, he follows her into a battlefield where few make it out alive. Another page turner that keeps the reader spellbound, eager to see what comes next.

Stock Exchange Monitor

Stock exchange ticker monitor. By User:klip game (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Stock exchange ticker monitor. By User:klip game (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Jack Reacher, who calls himself Reacher, has a preferred method of buying goods and services and that's cash. Only in his later escapades has he added an ATM card to his baggage to draw money from his retirement pension. He has no permanent address where he can be contacted or receive mail. He doesn't own a computer or a cell phone although he expertly understands how they work and how to use them.

He has no driver's license despite often finding himself behind the wheel of a car, an SUV or even a Humvee where he demonstrates driving proficiency. He tends to get arrested on a regular basis, but, thanks to his exceptional military personnel record, he is quickly vindicated.

He checks into cheap motels using the names of former presidents, paying for one day at a time, carrying only his folding toothbrush as luggage. He drinks gallons of coffee and is a connoisseur of the proper blend, ingredients and most adequate vessel best serving the tastiest brew.

He's well educated, often borrowing philosophies from the greats of the past. He speaks of Zeno and laments of human kind's atavistic human fears; a feeling that "there's something out there". He claims to know the inner workings of the minds of soldiers, citing that their greatest fear is not death but of sustaining a grotesque wound."

He grew up mostly in Europe, the dependent of a military officer who traveled from one foreign base to another lending a desire to explore the continental United States as if a tourist. He's considered career military, growing up in a military family, then, joining the Army and working his way up the ranks to Major. He's experienced downsizing from the perspective of the military reducing forces. He saw the cloud on the horizon and voluntarily left a position of authority and power to become a vagrant with no permanent address.

Lee Child's 3rd Jack Reacher Novel
Lee Child's 3rd Jack Reacher Novel

Each of the novels by author Lee Child has the power to captivate beginning with the opening paragraph. These novels are true page-turners. His style is neither grammatical nor intellectually stuffy. He writes like most of us either think or talk, in fragments and exclamations. That may be one of the ways he draws and keeps the reader's attention.

Child's stories generally follow the same basic pattern of events. Reacher is new in town, usually hitchhiking or getting off a bus. He gets into a fight that he wins. He's arrested and held in jail for a short period of time. Then he's released once they run a search on his military records. The cops in the town often turn to him for help and advice to tap Reacher's vast experience as a special investigator in the military police.

More of Lee Child's novels on my Kindle
More of Lee Child's novels on my Kindle

The author's style includes rich descriptive narrative like "Satellite dishes tilted up and facing southwest like a regiment of expectant faces." His words paint clear pictures, often graphic and detailed.

But why do people like Reacher? He's a hero. He's a man's man. He always does the right thing. He looks after the underdog in a story that spills out a web of intrigue that hooks the reader on the mystery right up front and fills in the gaps with fascinating detail and introspection into the human condition. He has a deep understanding of human nature.

Watching workers return home from a twelve hour shift, he summarizes their activity. "He saw hopeful boys with balls and mitts looking for a last game of catch. He saw some fathers agree and some refuse. He saw small girls run out with treasures that required urgent inspection."

He's flippant, self-assured, refined to an extent, homeless, and a veteran who is seemingly invincible when it comes to beating the odds in barroom brawls or against characters with superior size and strength.

Movie Trailer - One Shot, Starring Tom Cruise

One Shot - The Movie

Lee Child's ninth novel plays out in an action packed full length movie starring Tom Cruise, an unlikely choice for the part. Although charismatic in the role, Cruise falls far short of the stature and build of the character he portrays. Even so, he pulls off the role with his standard ease and style.

Co-staring Rosamund Pike and Robert Duval, who add their expert talents to the story, Jack Reacher works with the homicide team to solve this seemingly open and shut case against a former military sniper who stages an attack in a public place in broad daylight.

Still, he manages to solve the mystery, win the affection of the girl, come out standing on a four against one bar fight, shoot a rifle with insane accuracy, drive a Super Sport vintage Malibu with incredible finesse and prove wrong those who presume the guilt of a man accused of a sniper attack.

Lee Child, a pen-name for the author James Grant
Lee Child, a pen-name for the author James Grant | Source

About the Author

Lee Child is the pen name for James Grant, born in Coventry, England in October of 1954. His first novel, Killing Floor, in 1998, won the Anthony and Barry Awards for best first novel. He characterizes his novels as revenge stories. "Somebody does a very bad thing, and Reacher takes revenge."

This author is also a talented TV director and the source for hours of television commercials along with a host of short stories he's penned. A lengthy series of books followed featuring the main character, Jack Reacher. You can find more titles and details on the official web site of Mr. Lee Child.

© 2017 Peg Cole


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    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Hi Peggy, I'm an insomniac so I read a lot late at night.These books keep me turning the pages into the wee hours and I've read many of them more than once. It made gift giving easy for my hubby who ordered these novels for me. I hope you'll try at least one and see it they suit your reading taste.

      Thanks so much for coming by.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I have heard of the character Jack Reacher probably because of movie previews I would have seen but have never read one of these books nor did I see the movie. Now you have me interested in reading some of these Lee Child (James Grant) books. Thanks Peg! They truly sound interesting.

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      2 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Hey there, Frank. Like most movies, the Tom Cruise version falls way short of the actual character who is not at all smug and condescending. Jack Reacher is six foot five which is a far cry from the actor's stature at five foot seven. I would have pictured someone like Chris Hemsworth playing the role. Thanks so much for the visit.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      2 years ago from Shelton

      I've never read any of Lee Child's novels.. but I do remember seeing a movie with Tom Cruise playing his character ... maybe I should.. you have good taste in literature.. so yeah.. maybe I should

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      3 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Hello Flourish, Simply because of my nature, I started with the first of the series and progressed numerically through the books. Each one stands independently, although, some characters return in later books and their history might be a little brief to avoid redundancy. I was intrigued with "Killing Floor" because of the depth of false assumptions and misdirection that abounded in the little town. My favorites are where the story is from Reacher's times in the military, for example, "The Enemy." If you were to watch the movie, "One Shot," you'd find the book to be much better.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      3 years ago from USA

      Although I'd never see the movie because Tom Cruise is in it, your description of the books makes me want to read them. I've never read any of them. Sounds like I've been missing out! Any suggestions on what book to start with? Or does it matter?

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      3 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Hello Ann, What a small world we live in. How interesting that you took training in Coventry where this author was born. I agree with you on the choice of actors in the films. I can think of a few who might have been structurally more suited to the part. Thanks for stopping in to share your thoughts.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      3 years ago from SW England

      I didn't realise Child was born in Coventry; I went to teaching training college there. I have read one of his novels but can't remember the title; I know I enjoyed it as a refreshing read and an intriguing character in Reacher. I don't think Tom Cruise is a good choice for the character in the film - not nearly tall enough and certainly not good-looking but then that's entirely subjective!

      Great review.


    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      3 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Hello Bravewarrior, There are so many great books out there and not enough time to read them all. Glad you are intrigued by this series and thanks for stopping in to comment.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      3 years ago from Central Florida

      I must really be living in the dark ages. I've not read any if the Jack Reacher books. The movie trailers didn't appeal to me as something I'd watch, but books are always better than the film versions.

      You did an excellent job of summarizing each book, Peg!

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      3 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Hello MsDora,

      Some of the content is pretty graphic at times. He is a one man killing machine as well as an observer. Be sure to close your eyes during those pages. Thank you for stopping by.

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      3 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Hello Mar,

      I understand what you mean about leisure time reading. Working seems to take most of our waking hours. There doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day. Thanks for taking time from your hectic schedule to read this review. All the best to you. Peg

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      3 years ago from The Caribbean

      What an interesting man and he must be quite an observer. Thanks for introducing him and his works. You encourage me to get a piece of him.

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 

      3 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Dear Peg,

      Another compelling review that makes me wish I had more time in the day to read books such as this - as opposed to text books and student papers!

      I know Mom would have been hooked on these books - she read a book (or more) a week - as I will too 'one day'.

      Have a peaceful week. Love, Maria

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      3 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Mike, I seem to remember that you like the Travis McGee series by John D. Macdonald. Me, too. Maybe that's why I like these Reacher novels. He's the same type of guy, winning against incredible odds. I read in the author's bio that Child was fired at the age of 40 due to restructuring. He rebounded and wrote his first novel, Killing Floor. A lot of his stories refer to the restructuring of the Army and Reacher's decision to get out before he was downsized. Life imitates fiction or the reverse. Thanks for stopping in and for the great comment.

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      3 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Hi Nell, Glad to see you're a fan of the Reacher stories. The book is a whole lot better than the movie that I've seen so far, "One Shot," although, that's what got me started reading the novels. Thanks for dropping by.

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      3 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Hi Jodah, The stories are truly fascinating and the fact that he can do so much with so little is truly inspiring. Thanks for coming by and for the kind words.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      3 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Great review of Jack Reacher books by you!

      You have inspired me to read the novels. Although I have known the author through the movies. But I do believe that it is important to read the novels first then watch the movies inspired by the books.

      Thanks for sharing this wonderful and interesting hub!

    • mckbirdbks profile image


      3 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Peg - What an interesting review. I only seem to be reading books by authors I know these days. In the old days, when I was known as a reader, these would have been just the type of stories I would go for. As you know I am/was a big Travis Mcgee reader. Travis and Reacher seem to have a lot in common.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      3 years ago from England

      I have just started watching the films so this is great! I tend to read late at night so may have a go reading these books first before seeing the films, great review!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      This was great, Peg. With Jack Reacher, Lee Child created a wonderful character. I don't know what it is but the fact that he is homeless, only has one set of clothes and virtually no possessions but can still do what he does successfully and fight corruption and the bad guys and win, makes him appealing. Yes, Tom Cruise was an odd choice for the role in the movie "One Shot" (I watched a rerun recently) but he did a good job I thought. I enjoyed reading this. Good job.

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      3 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Bill, With all you have going on when do you have time to read? I mostly read late at night as I'm an insomniac. Either the book keeps me awake or it puts me to sleep.

      I agree about the movie. I even debated about reading "One Shot" since I'd already seen it on cable. The book was a lot better than the film.

    • PegCole17 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peg Cole 

      3 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Thanks, Jackie. There are a number of the Jack Reacher novels that are truly fun to read. The movie was not nearly as good as the books, but then, when are they ever?

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I love Jack Reacher novels. I'm not too fond of the movies but that's mainly because of who stars in them, but the novels are among my favorite thrillers. Great reads!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      3 years ago from the beautiful south

      Sounds like a great book and I would really love to catch that movie, too! Thanks for an interesting review!


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