In 1995, at age 40, English-born Lee Child lost his job in television and decided to pursue his dream of writing crime fiction. His dream paid off. “A Wanted Man” is the 17th novel in his hugely popular series about that crime-fighting American vagabond Jack Reacher. I know people who have read all 17 books and loved every one. I’ve read five of them and have a more restrained view. Child is a gifted craftsman and storyteller who has created a memorable character, but the quality of his books varies considerably with the strength of their plots.
Certainly, Reacher is a great male fantasy. After 13 years in the U.S. military police, he became a rambling man, unburdened by wife, fixed address, car or credit card. He moves around America, mostly via bus or hitchhiking, and finds trouble wherever he goes. But that’s okay, because he’s a 6-foot-5, 250-pound one-man army, lethal with his fists and every imaginable weapon. Women adore him, but his adventures leave him little time for their charms.