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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Lee Child

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To purchase Personal

Title: Personal
Author: Lee Child
Genre: Novel
Written: 2014
Length: 458 pages
Availability: Personal - US
Personal - UK
Personal - Canada
La cible était française - France
Im Visier - Deutschland
Personal - Italia
Personal - España
from: Bookshop.org (US)
  • The nineteenth Jack Reacher novel

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Our Assessment:

B : the usual solid -- and occasionally spectacular -- action, in a decent thriller

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian A 4/9/2014 Steven Poole
Sydney Morning Herald . 3/10/2014 Jeff Popple
The Washington Post A- 31/8/2014 Patrick Anderson

  From the Reviews:
  • "As usual the novel has a refrain. A repeated nugget of tactical wisdom. This time it's that in a fight, no one knows what's going to happen. (...) It is also Child. He is so good. He makes "literary" writing seem orotund. Flabby. His sawn-off sentences pile up. He generates relentless momentum. At the same time, breathing space. Educational interludes. A whole paragraph on how to kick down a door. Sardonic riffs on consumerism. Always rhythmically placed in the ebb and flow of information. Contributing to the suspense. Child's dedication to suspense. It approaches the Hitchcockian." - Steven Poole, The Guardian

  • "In all it is an easy read that flows relatively smoothly. The story starts well, but the rationale behind the focus on the London gangs seems odd and the plot meanders at time. Nevertheless it builds to an exciting conclusion and Child provides a good, unexpected final twist that makes sense of what went before." - Jeff Popple, Sydney Morning Herald

  • "Personal, the 19th Reacher novel, is the best of the six I’ve read. (...) The story that unfolds in Paris and London -- both lovingly evoked -- is complex and fascinating. You’ll learn more than you ever expected to know about snipers and high-powered rifles. (...) Throughout, Child does a masterly job of bringing his adventure to life with endless surprises and fierce suspense, and he’s peerless on the logistics of killing. (...) There’s an unspoken bargain here: Child gives us an exciting read, and we pretend not to know that his hero will survive this adventure, just as he did the previous 18 times." - Patrick Anderson, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Jack Reacher is on the West Coast, doing his usual itinerant thing, when someone takes a shot at the French president in Paris -- and soon enough Reacher is involved in trying help track down who might have been behind it. Generals Tom O'Day and Richard Shoemaker, back from Reacher's army military police days, put out the call and as luck would have it, it reaches Reacher quickly. (One could argue that this launching set-up -- as to how Reacher learns he is needed -- is rather too contrived, but presumably -- as also goes for so much else in the novel (and this kind of novel in general) --: whatever gets the job done, and puts Reacher into play.)
       Protected by bulletproof glass, the president wasn't injured -- but the one shot was a mighty one, taken from fourteen hundred yards away. Very few snipers have the skills to pull that off, and with a G8 meeting scheduled for London soon, everyone is concerned about someone with those abilities being out there. The list of suspects is quickly shortened to a handful -- "We're down to four guys", O'Day tells Reacher -- and one of them is someone who Reacher put away sixteen years earlier: John Kott, who finished his fifteen-year-sentence just a year ago.
       Reacher gets partnered up with Casey Nice, a twenty-eight-year-old officially working for the State Department. She's exactly the same age as Dominique Kohl was -- a character familiar to Child-readers from Persuader -- who ... met an unfortunate fate, which Reacher still feels very guilty about (and so he's going to be worrying about Casey the whole time they're working together.) Casey also has a bit of an anxiety problem, which she's treating by taking pills -- and she only has a limited supply of them, with Reacher then having to worry too whether that will become a problem .....
       Out of action for fifteen years, it stands to reason that Kott's skills have atrophied -- but, as Casey tells him, he's been doing yoga, and: "it's the yoga that worries us".....
       Reacher also knows why they reached out to him in particular:

If Kott's the guy, you want me out there blundering around because whoever is bankrolling him will want to stop me. Whatever faction, as O'Day likes to say, I'm supposed to bring them out in the open. That's all. All I am is bait.
       And with a sniper out there, he can be bait from over quite a long distance too, which is certainly part of the fun of the novel, the near-constant sense of possible threat from a bullet fired over a thousand yards away hanging over Reacher (and Casey, whom he therefore advises to stay a consistent seven-feet-margin-of-error away from him). (Child plays this up very well, not least by noting just what is involved in such a shot -- including a hangtime of some three seconds (at fourteen hundred yards), complete with the arcs the bullet takes, as gravity and wind affect it along the way.)
       Reacher and Casey travel to Paris to scope things out, meeting up with the Russian and the Brit who have been assigned to try to determine whether the sniper is their man. They find the apartment the shot was taken from -- and learn some more about the danger they, and presumably the G8 politicians, are in. They also learn that there's local hired help -- taking care of all the things to help ensure that the sniper -- or snipers ? -- can do their job.
       When it's off to London, it's that local help that everyone figures is the best entrée to the sniper's (and his/their backers') world, with two local gangs the obvious candidates. So Reacher gets to mess with them, too -- allowing for some more traditional close-range fighting as well. Reacher gets them riled up, and if this case wasn't already personal enough with Kott being involved, they want to make it even more personal.
       One of the big gang players is known as 'Little Joey', who is so large that even big Jack Reacher is dwarfed by him. Little Joey also had a house built to his specifications -- one where everything is on the right scale for him, not normal human beings, making for a rather comic look and feel to the parts of the novel that then center around it (as quite a few do). But, of course, it's all serious business around Reacher.
       Casey tags along the whole way -- and proves her mettle --, with Reacher encouraging her, including by maintaining that: "the physical part is the least of it". The guns certainly help, but there's also a lot of contact that is up close and personal -- and, as usual, there's a fairly high and messy body-count. And there's always the fact that Reacher and Casey have to tread carefully when they're in London, being on foreign soil and in a mostly unofficial capacity and all.
       Soon pretty much the whole range of confrontations -- and there are quite a few -- turn out to be personal, as quite a few people have a beef with Reacher -- some longstanding, some brand new. Even the final twist turns out to be personal, so that point is certainly made, and the title more than justified.
       The action is varied and mostly decent, though the highpoint comes fairly early on, when Reacher and Casey are in Paris. Little Joey is a bit too absurd a character (and the house -- though plausible, I suppose -- seems rather silly), but for the most part Reacher's navigating this crowded field, with various secret services and the like, as well as the local gangs in the mix, is deftly handled. Casey's anxiety -- and Reacher's concerns that he might be leading her to a fate similar to that of Dominique Kohl -- lays it on a bit thick, but not fatally so.
       All in all it's a solid read, with some good surprises and a decent, if arguably too personal, story behind everything that's going on.

- M.A.Orthofer, 4 July 2023

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Personal: Reviews: Lee Child: Other books by Lee Child under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       British author Lee Child was born in 1954.

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© 2023-2024 the complete review

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