Jack Reacher Clones

This is for those of you who love Jack Reacher. Being a big fan of Lee Child’s series of novels, I am delighted to find two additional series, which match the adept and self-sufficient protagonist, Jack Reacher.reacher

First, let me introduce you to Peter Ash, soon to join the ranks of Reacher, Spenser, Doc Ford and Myron Bolitar. Ash is also a recently discharged vet who has PTSD, to the extent he can only briefly enter any type of building or other enclosed space without a panic attack. Like Reacher, Ash is a good guy who travels about solving other’s problems.

In The Drifter, Nick Petrie introduces us to Ash who tries to help a fellow Marine’s widow after he commits suicide. Lots of pulse-pounding action with the ugliest dog alive and memorable characters galore. I have read all three of Petrie’s Peter Ash novels and all of them are quality writing – as with the Lee Child novels, I await the next thriller because I have come to care about the main character and the side kicks who help him survive his crazy world where good always triumphs.

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Then, there is The Gray Man. I started with the 7th book in the series because I didn’t know! Agent in Place by Mark Greaney sounded like Jack Reacher as SPY, so I scooped it up. Indeed, the Gray Man is more Jack Reacher than even Reacher is – he is deadlier and more moral than any character I have read. The Gray Man is an ex-CIA professional assassin who only kills when it is moral to do so.

These Gray Man books are ultra-action novels, rather Jack Reacher on speed, but I loved the great writing and the unbelievable skills of this killer. In Agent in Place, for instance, his goal is to kill one of the most disgusting world leaders that you can imagine (no spoiler here). Yes!! Go Gray Man!

I should have started with book one in the series, called The Gray Man, of course. So that is where I will go next, but I read Agent in Place in two days – and they were busy days for me! I hated to put the book down and there is no greater compliment for a book than that. The books are meant to be stand-alones, however, so do yourself a favor and take your pick from the seven published.

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If you like the Jack Reacher escapist novels from time to time, now you don’t have to wait a year for the next Lee Child book to find excellent writing in your action novels. Petrie is very similar to Child while Greaney’s character is international in its range. Either author will give you a quick and enjoyable Jack Reacher fix in this action thriller subgenre.

 

My rating: 5 of 5

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Origin by Dan Brown

Poor Dan Brown! No one has ever commended his writing style, and now with his fifth Robert Langdon thriller, Origin, out last year, the critics are almost universally agreed that we have had enough of his same-old-same-old story line.origin

But while I agree mostly with the criticism of Origin that it is just a continuation of The Di Vinci Code (except it is set in Spain!!), what did everyone expect? Of course, Brown’s plots are in the style of DAN BROWN. That is, they are just like the similarity you see in Lee Child novels and Robert Parker novels – if you have read one, you have read them all. But that is why we read serial-character novels as they come out… we liked Brown’s basic plot around cryptography, symbols, codes and conspiracy theories.

In Origin Brown again tackles the religion vs. science arguments. This time quite substantially. Our art history lessons this time concern modern art – that is at least one significant change in a Brown novel! And as I said, we learn a great deal about Barcelona and Bilbao, Spain.

Brown got his interest in European art when he spent a college-abroad year in Seville, Spain, where he enrolled in an art history course. His first book Digital Fortress was also set in Seville. And I think you can feel Brown’s affection for Spain in the pages of Origin.

I cannot say that the writing in Origin is great or even that good. I agree the “Dan Brown Plot” has been done over and over. But I did indeed enjoy Origin. I got pulled in to the silly plot and the chase through famous Spanish historical sites. But the book was what I expected, and therefore, I was not disappointed.

3 of 5 stars

 

Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta

I am quite happy I discovered Michael Koryta! He has two series with PIs as protagonists and another 5 stand-alone thrillers beyond Those Who Wish Me Dead. I anticipate a great deal of enjoyable reading ahead of me. Koryta was the youngest winner of the annual St. Martin’s Press/Private Eye Writers of America “Best First Private Eye Novel” contest in 2003. It seems to have taken me a while to get to him, but it is always a plus to find so many new books to read.51WsgkE90ML._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_

Those Who Wish Me Dead is a thriller involving a 14 year old boy who has witnessed a brutal murder. His protective custody, while the police search for the two killers, gives him a new name and places him in a Montana wilderness survival program for troubled teens. This entire gripping book produces adrenaline and wide-eyed reading!

Fortunately, the wilderness program leaders, Ethan and Allison, impart their survival knowledge to the teens, but the tracking killers slaughter everyone in their wake. Again, the detailed violence is a bit too much for me, and some illogical decisions put me off a bit. But overall it was a fun read – one of those books to read straight through on a solitary evening. Koryta won the Best Novel Barry Award in 2015 for this book. I will be returning to his older novels for more thrills!

My rating –  4 of 5

The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

Yet another Thriller is hyped as the “Next Gone Girl!” OK, I did like this book; it is fast paced and a page-tuner in the truest sense. And I really wanted to LOVE it as the topic is just to my liking – an abused woman on the run from police and bad guys who struggles to survive without ID or money as she moves around the US.

And Lisa Lutz clearly has some great ideas for just such a dilemma – how to steal or forge ID, where to work and sleep for free or at least cash, how to travel under the radar. Not an easy task in the techno world of today. Our heroine, Tanya, is frail emotionally, yet the necessity of survival keeps her alive and moving. You will definitely need a map of the US as you read this book!the-passenger-lisa-lutz

But (yes, there is a but), our 28 year-old Tanya can also pick locks with a paper clip(!!) and has the knowledge to dig Apache snare traps in the yard. Seriously. I would have indeed LOVED The Passenger IF Lutz had kept her survival escapade within the bounds of reasonableness! Too often Tanya would only stay alive for the next chapter due to outrageous skills or luck.

Another woman named Blue comes into the picture at one point and ends up saving Tanya in the end. Instead of Tanya saving herself, we have yet another unlikely and personally non-satisfying twist in the story.

There are many fun and clever twists in the book, but Lutz just misses the mark, unfortunately, by a few steps. Lutz is the author of the popular Spellman Files series which features a quirky young PI from a dysfunctional family. This book is more serious and more engaging than the Spellman books, and I did like the quick read.

This is the perfect book for a long air flight or a day on the beach. You will enjoy the Thriller “ride.” I hope Lutz continues to try her hand at Thrillers but leaves the “not likely” bits for the Spellman books.

My rating 4 stars out of 5

Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben

Every now and then I like to read a thriller. Not a mystery where I use logic and analysis to decide who-dun-it. Rather I like to get on the roller coaster and ride for a short time with my heart in my throat, thrilled to the max.

Harlan Coben is the master of the thriller. Some would say his books are formulaic, and actually, I do agree with that. But what a fun formula! Coben had written seven consecutive #1 New York Times bestseller thrillers, and this one makes number eight.

Fool Me Once is a fast paced ride with all the necessary elements to keep you trying to guess what is going on. The novel opens at Maya’s husband’s funeral. He has been killed while with Maya during a robbery gone bad. The police arrest the bad guys and close the case, but Maya is sure that these men are not guilty. She decides to handle her own investigation, but then Maya sees her husband walking across the nanny-cam video used to watch her child’s nanny. Uh-oh…

Coben said in an interview that he wanted “to write a normal, intelligent woman” character – and he certainly has done so in Maya, a Special Ops pilot who has all the makings of a more classy Lizbeth Salander (The Girl in the Dragon Tattoo)!

News stories are reporting that Julia Roberts will produce and star in the movie adaptation. Apparently, she read the book in two days and solicited the part of Maya. I think that Fool Me Once is this year’s Gone Girl or Girl on a Train. Only this time the Girl is a heroine you can cheer for.

I love the twists and turns Coben puts in his thrillers. And yes, his novel plots are very similar to each other. But I am willing to take this wild ride every now and again, even if I know what I am in for.

Coben also wrote the Myron Bolitar series about a sports agent detective. If you haven’t read that series, start with number one, Deal Breaker, which won the 1996 Anthony Award in the category “Best Paperback Original.” I loved this series and fans will be happy to note that another Myron book will come out in September 2016, after nothing in that series since 2011.

  My rating: 4 out of 5