Literature: Jack Reacher

A series of novels by British-born Lee Child, about ex-Military Policeman Jack Reacher, Walking the Earth after mustering out from over a decade of service. A Military Brat, having spent his younger years being posted all round the world, he decides to get a closer look at his home country. On his journeys across America he stumbles across his fair share of forgers, smugglers, gun runners, drug dealers and assassins. He then proceeds to sit down with each of them in turn and have civilized discussions -over a lovely cup of tea- why they really should stop all this unpleasant business and whatnot.

Received a film adaptation based on the novel One Shot titled Jack Reacher, which was directed and written by Christopher McQuarrie, starring Tom Cruise in the lead role with Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, Robert Duvall, and Werner Herzog also starring.

Tropes applying to this series:

  • Airport Novel: According to The Other Wiki, Child explicitly writes these books as such.
  • Alone with the Psycho: In Gone Tomorrow a suicide victim's son picks up a woman in a bar who turns out to be a terrorist. It doesn't end well for him.
  • Amateur Sleuth: Not really, as Reacher spent over a decade as a decorated and skilled investigative MP, but since mustering out he's technically "amateur".
  • Anticlimax: In almost every book. Child spends a couple of hundred pages having the villain of the day do some truly horrendous things, so that only the most Cruel and Unusual Death will satisfy the reader. When Reacher finally catches up with him, though, the villain's death inevitably takes less than a sentence, and usually occurs by Boom, Headshot. Most times, the villains don't even see it coming. Likely intentional, to illustrate Reacher's ruthless efficiency.
    • Lampshaded in the first novel Killing Floor where Reacher reflects on how the scene would play out in a book or a movie as he contemplates taking down the bad guy, and how direct confrontation isn't actually practical. Of course, he then proceeds to have a fist-fight with the guy.
    • Particularly noticeable in Worth Dying For, where the Duncans have kept an entire town as their personal feifdom for over 25 years. Reacher takes them all out in about an hour.
  • As You Know: On occasions, characters explain to Reacher things that he already knew, for benefit of the readers. It is justified, however, as the author always points out that Reacher lets them talk out of politeness, or to make them underestimate him.
  • Author Catchphrase: "Reacher said nothing." Seriously, Child has got that macroed.
    • Also, "That's for damn sure."
    • And "Not good. Not good at all."
  • Badass: Reacher is badass incarnate.
    • Badass Adorable: In 61 Hours, it is revealed that decades ago, the US Army ran an experiment on Army brats to try to identify children who did not have a typical fear response. A monster movie was screened on military bases with a secret camera hooked up to capture the children in the audience precisely 18 frames after the monster makes its first appearance. The only one they captured without a fear response? 6-year old Reacher. Lunging TOWARDS the screen. With a switchblade. Which he managed to deploy in 3/4 of a second.
  • Ballistic Discount: Reacher has robbed illicit arms dealers more than once. Why do they not expect this? Who knows.
    • Double subverted in Bad Luck and Trouble, where a shady pawn shop owner pulls a gun on Reacher instead of selling him one. Reacher is surprised, but his fist can still move faster than the owner's reaction time.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Reacher routinely does this during the climaxes of his stories.
  • The Big Guy: Reacher stands at 6ft'5, and is built like a brick wall.
  • Black and Gray Morality: Briefly discussed in The Hard Way. As Pauling puts it, in their situation, there are no good guys. Just bad guys and worse guys. The worst guy ends up being an extremely good guy, making this a definite subversion.
  • Blatant Lies: Sometimes Reacher indulges in this. For example, in 61 Hours, regarding his old desk:
    Amanda: There's a big dent on the right hand side. People say you made it, with someone's head.
    Reacher: People say?
    Amanda: Like a folk legend. Is it true?
    Reacher: I think the movers did it.
    Amanda: It's perfectly concave.
    Reacher: Maybe they dropped a bowling ball.
    • In The Hard Way, a character uses a phony name on an apartment lease in New York City. The name is just two nearby street names put together. The word 'blatant' actually comes up in the narration. This is a subversion of the trope. The two nearby street names helped pinpoint the location of the kidnapper's apartment, which is exactly what the kidnapper wanted.
  • Brain Bleach: In Worth Dying For, Reacher regrets his decision to look inside the barn, and wants for no one to ever look in there again.
  • Busman's Holiday: In his never ending sightseeing journey of USA, Reacher stumbles into more than a few conspiracies and criminals. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Chekhov's Armory: A fundamental, often beautifully done aspect of the series. There are often so many things to keep track of that when they come back, it'll be a surprise even though you can clearly remember their first mentions.
  • Chekhov's Gag: In 61 Hours, Reacher has a conversation with the police deputy Peterson about 'Plato', the alias of a criminal they're after. Peterson doesn't know who the actual Plato was, and they have a brief back-and-forth that ends with Reacher telling him that Plato was an ancient Greek philosopher. Later, Peterson looks up 'Plato' in the police database, and gets redirected to Google, which helpfully tells him that Plato was a Greek philosopher. This turns out to be a more conventional Chekhov's Gun when they view some footage of a coded message from Plato.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Reacher, most prominently. Eye gouging, throat slitting, Groin Attack, etc., anything to kill his enemies quickly.
  • Contrived Coincidence: In The Killing Floor, Reacher just happens to wander into the town his brother was very recently murdered in.
    • The Affair tries to justify this with messages back and forth to his brother in that town, and about Blind Blake. Then Reacher takes his mustering out.
    • Averted in Worth Dying For. Eleanor Duncan calls the police with evidence of all the crimes going on, but because she admits that her husband constantly beats her, they think she's just making things up to get back at him. Thing is, she actually did get at least one cop's attention, and so when Reacher catches a lift, he ends up getting dropped off in exactly the right place for him to start setting things to rights.
  • Cultured Badass: Downplayed. Reacher's wandering lifestyle means he's often unsure how to handle personal etiquette with civilians, and his knowledge of consumer technology is a little sketchy. Nevertheless, he's better educated than your average small-town cop.
    Reacher: Plato is a weird name for a Mexican, don't you think? Sounds more like a Brazilian name to me.
    Peterson: No, Yugoslavian. Like that old dictator.
    Reacher: That was Tito.
    Peterson: I thought he was a South African bishop.
    Reacher: That was Tutu.
    Peterson: So who was Plato?
    Reacher: An ancient Greek philosopher. The pupil of Socrates, the teacher of Aristotle.
    Peterson: So what has Brazil got to do with all that?
    Reacher: Don't ask.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: Subverted in 61 Hours. Upon arriving in town, Reacher beats up a pair of bikers. When a police officer arriving on the scene asks for the reason that he now has to call two ambulances, Reacher explains that it was because of the ice. When the officer skeptically asks if Reacher really expects him to believe that the bikers slipped on the ice, Reacher clarifies that the ice caused him to slip a little and took some of the force off of one of his blows. If not for the ice, the officer would be calling for one ambulance, and one coroner's wagon.
  • Determinator
  • Diabolical Mastermind: Julia Lamarr, the Dirty Cop FBI profiler who murders five women just to disguise the motive of one murder. Reacher has got to catch her in the act because nobody will believe him otherwise- and even then, her coworkers try to pin Lamarr's crimes on him.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: At least occasionally. For example, in Die Trying, while Reacher and Holly Johnson have a clear attraction and at one point engage in Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex, she is in love with someone else and moves in with (and probably marries) him at the end of the novel. Reacher himself just wants her to be happy, though he’s more than a little disappointed about it.
    • At least she makes it out of the novel alive, unlike Secret Service agent/love interest M.E. Froelich in Without Fail, who not only takes a bullet protecting the Vice-President-elect but expires in Reacher's arms afterwards.
    • While it's a stretch to call her a love interest, Reacher is attracted to Special Agent Sorrenson in A Wanted Man. However, she gets shot to death as well. Reacher was already planning to storm the enemy's stronghold before her death, but its safe to say his subsequent massacre of the baddies is something of a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
    • Reacher ends up hooking up with Vaughn from Nothing To Lose, but it goes nowhere, because she's married, her husband's a vegetable and she only hooked up with him because they both knew that Reacher wouldn't be sticking around for long.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Holly Johnson in Die Trying, an FBI agent who also grew up on an army base, has gotten a lot of prestige considering her age, and kicks no small amount of ass herself despite one of her knees being torn up. She even spends a while thinking of Reacher as a bystander whose safety she's responsible for, before she finds out just how well he can handle himself.
  • Domestic Abuse: Echo Burning.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: Deconstructed in ''The Affair," when Reacher debates the advantage gained from the intimidation factor of cocking his shot gun versus the disadvantage of having one fewer shell in the gun if it comes to a shoot out.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: in the first book, Killing Floor, and to some extent in the second, Die Trying, Reacher has actual feelings and vulnerabilities. He sings and dances at various points, not quite activities Jack Reacher classic can be imagined doing. His competence level is not quite so superheroic as in later books, either.
  • Enhance Button: Averted in Die Trying. The FBI gets a hold of some surveillance photos of people perpetrating a crime, but the technician assigned to them has to go through some lengthy, elaborate processes to recreate the perpetrators' faces in better detail, factoring in the camera's position and focal length, using the face of one person they do have other photos of as a reference, and even obtaining colored objects from the crime scene to decode the grays in the (black and white) photos. Even after all this, the result isn't necessarily accurate, because they have to extrapolate for anything the original photos didn't catch, such as the far side of a person's face viewed in profile.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Downplayed, justified and invoked in Worth Dying For. Gas tanks violently explode on four separate occasions, but always as a result of someone deliberately setting the car on fire. In multiple cases, it's explicitly noted that the explosion's strength is from the gas tank being very close to full. At the end of the story, Reacher specifically chooses a car with the fullest gas tank he can find to help with his final assault.
  • Extreme Doormat: Most of the Duncans' neighbors in Worth Dying For fall into this trope, especially the motel owner and the doctor. They spend most of the book doing whatever Reacher or the Duncans want them to.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Reacher is an unapologetic seducer, but he will not sleep with a married woman.
  • Eye Scream: Twice, and only in the first novel.
  • Flanderization: Reacher grew more and more invulnerable since his first appearance in Killing Floor, shedding away his fears and feelings in lieu of superhuman competence. This process has been dialed back, however, starting in 61 Hours, where he fails to save a witness he's supposed to protect and a cop he's grown to like.
  • Foreshadowing: The whole series is laden thick with this trope, as befitting the constant theme of mystery. Sometimes, the foreshadowing takes the form of obviously unanswered questions, and some later follow-up is to be expected; other times, the first mentions blend right in with the usual narration, only to pop out at the reader later.
    • For example, Reacher mentions in Killing Floor that the guy who runs the shop he gets coffee at gives him coins in change because he doesn't have any one-dollar bills. The local counterfeiters have been acquiring every one-dollar bill they can get their hands on to make one-hundred-dollar bills.
  • Genius Bruiser: Reacher is usually portrayed as this.
  • Girl of the Week: Each book tends to have Reacher teaming up with a young, attractive woman, who he inevitably sleeps with (although to Child's credit, a curveball is thrown once or twice).
    • In A Wanted Man Reacher teams up with Special Agent Sorenson and Special Agent Karen Delfuenso. He likes and admires them both and feels at least fleetingly attracted to Sorenson. But the prospect of getting involved with either of them never comes up - as it were - and then Sorenson is killed in any case.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Reacher is often portrayed like this.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: In Killing Floor, this is Reacher's first hint that Baker is in with the villains—he's very negligent handling Reacher in custody, because he already knows Reacher is innocent.
  • Guilt by Coincidence: The whole plot of Worth Dying For is set in motion when Seth Duncan's wife shows evidence of being a battered woman, and Reacher locates Duncan and breaks his nose in retaliation. It turns out that Duncan does have a history of hitting his wife, and everyone in town knows it, but in this specific instance it was actually two criminal thugs pressuring Duncan who attacked her, not Duncan himself.
  • Handicapped Badass: Holly Johnson in the second novel, Die Trying. Having to rely on crutches to walk around doesn't stop her from escaping her holding cell and killing at least three guerrilla fighters armed with guns.
  • Heroic Build: Reacher never exercises or practices good diet and yet he's perfectly toned and extremely strong. He lampshades it in Never Go Back and blames it on good genetics.
  • Icy Blue Eyes: Of the "piercing and icy" variety.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Forms part of a thread throughout One Shot; Reacher notes that Barr is a decent sniper, but not good enough for the five kills. Reacher himself displays this when he dispatches Emerson, as on the Awesome page, though it's also established that he was a Wimbledon Cup contender, albeit one with rusty skills. note 
  • I Never Told You My Name: Defied in The Hard Way. Kate makes sure to ask for Burke's name over the phone so that if she accidentally addresses him by name afterwards, it doesn't tip him off that she knows too much.
  • It's Personal: Some of the cases he looks into directly involve things from his military days that leads to Reacher doing everything to kill the bad guy. The Killing Floor has the death of his brother, the deaths of the former members of his squad in Bad Luck and Trouble, and sighting the bad guy he thought dead in the Persauder, and he was on his way to kill the fall guy in One Shot when he ran into the conspiracy set up by the Russian.
  • Knight Errant: Jack Reacher is a great contemporary example. He roams the countryside (a good part of the US), saves damsels in distress (when he's not sleeping with them), and gives villains no quarter.
  • Last Name Basis: He is known as Reacher, by everyone including his mother. One person managed to use this as a warning.
  • Majorly Awesome: Reacher was a Major in the US Army, before getting busted down to Captain, and working his way back up to Major, prior to mustering out. In Never Go Back, he's briefly returned to this rank.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: Worth Dying For: One douchebag beating his wife -> his entire family (minus his wife) smuggling women and girls from Thailand for the sex trade and for their own sick desires.
    • Killing Floor: The murder of Reacher's brother -> an international counterfeiting ring that kills anyone who gets remotely close to it.
  • Muzzle Flashlight: Used deliberately by Reacher in Worth Dying For. During melee combat.
  • Orgy of Evidence: In One Shot, this is what the case against James Barr becomes. However, what makes Reacher suspicious is not the amount of evidence, but that the investigative team thought to look for a clue that they had no reason to believe existed.
  • The Profiler: Reacher can track people by their patterns of behavior.
    • Subverted in Bad Luck and Trouble when his former sergeant profiled him better than he profiled her and was waiting on him at the Denny's.
    • There's one of these in The Visitor (Running Blind in the U.S.). Subverted when she turns out to be the killer; everything she said in the novel was to try to throw people off her trail.
  • Rated M for Manly
  • Right Wing Militia Fanatic/Crazy Survivalist: The main villains of Die Trying.
  • Russian Guy Suffers Most: Played straight in One Shot. Not only do the Russian gangsters get the crap kicked out of them by Reacher, but the leader, "Zec", had spent decades in the gulag. As spelled out by the Jack Reacher movie, the torture Zec lived through was positively inhumane.
  • Serial Killings, Specific Target: In The Visitor (known as Running Blind in the States), Reacher is taken in by the FBI because he matches the criminal profile of a currently active serial killer, but cleared of suspicion almost immediately and forced to aid in the search of the real killer. The twist in the end is that the killer was The Profiler herself, whose real target was her stepsister. She had deliberately chosen the other victims so she could plausibly fabricate a profile pointing to someone with an entirely different kind of motivation.
  • Said Bookism: Averted. Even the Author Catchphrase has the word "said" in it. You can find "said" after countless lines of dialogue, ranging from questions to back-and-forth conversations.
  • Sherlock Scan: Reacher is pretty good at these, probably due to his wide range of experience as a former military policeman. More than one reviewer has described him as a sort of modern-day Sherlock Holmes.
  • Shown Their Work: While the books are not infallible, Child has strong knowledge of the military and its strategy, and lets you know it.
  • Suicide by Cop: Invoked in Worth Dying For by Eldridge Tyler. Reacher's narration refers to the phenomenon by name.
  • Super-Detailed Fight Narration: Without exception. Every fight scene in the series will take at least three times as long to read out loud as it would take to occur.
  • Superdickery: The beginning of Persuader.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: One way to look at Reacher. Child himself seems to take this view, as he is quite blunt in interviews about the fact that Reacher's actions frequently qualify as murder, but they're also almost exclusively Pay Evil unto Evil moments because the people he kills in cold blood tend to deserve it.
  • Tempting Fate: The owner of the town of Despair in Nothing To Lose is so paranoid that somebody might discover his secrets that he gets the police to throw out any stranger who walks into the town on a trumped-up charge of vagrancy, even if they're just passing through or they want to get something to eat. This… really doesn't work on Reacher.
  • Title Drop/Justified Title: Every novel in the series.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Margrave in Killing Floor- the entire town looks perfect, every building is immaculate and everything's clean and shiny... and yet there's virtually nobody in town, and certainly not enough people to justify the amount that must have been spent on making the town look so good. Because the local 'philanthropist' organisation is actually counterfeiting money and throwing it to everyone in the town to buy their silence.
    • Despair in Nothing To Lose, a company town that has been processing uranium without protection, resulting in a lot of people dying from radiation poisoning, while unable to do anything about it because the guy who owns the town simply doesn't care.
  • Tropes Are Not Bad: There's no way a Marty Stu could result in an enjoyable read for any reason besides So Bad, It's Good. Right?
  • Villain Team-Up: In Worth Dying For, three criminal bosses each send some of their men to Nebraska to help the Duncans take down Reacher. Thanks to a combination of Poor Communication Kills and all three factions having orders to eliminate the other two once Reacher is dead, the team-up doesn't last very long.
  • Waxing Lyrical: In The Hard Way, Reacher and Pauling briefly quote Satisfaction lyrics at each other, in reference to Reacher's huge accumulation of random trivia.
    Reacher: A lot of useless information. Supposed to fire my imagination.
    Pauling: But you can't get no satisfaction?
  • Wham Line: Any given chapter or passage from anything in the series is likely to end with one of these.
  • Why We're Bummed Communism Fell: The collapse of the Berlin Wall is a major plot point in The Enemy. The cutbacks that followed in subsequent years are the implied reason Reacher left.
    • Subverted - the actual reason is given in 61 Hours; Reacher built up a case against a general who had been selling food supplies that should have gone to his troops in the Gulf. The general laughed at him and got his skull broken complete with a six month coma. Only the strength of the case saved Reacher from outright discharge, but his commanding days were over.
      • The Affair covers his early retirement and the fact that he killed a congressman and a commanding officer of a special forces team for the murder and cover up of three girls near a training facility for the army.