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Literature / Jack Reacher

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"Someone does a very bad thing, and Reacher takes revenge."
Lee Child

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 around 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. Being a Jerk with a Heart of Gold and a former soldier with a personal code of honor, he executes vigilante justice without mercy and proceeds to, in a very realistic matter, kick the asses of the villains.

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. A sequel titled Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, based on 2013's Never Go Back, was released in 2016.


Child announced that the books will see a TV adaptation and has led efforts to help find an actor who can match Reacher's height as mentioned in the novels.

Tropes applying to this series:

  • The Ace: Reacher's resume establishes him as an ace at all forms of combat, rating him as "Beyond Outstanding" in hand-to-hand combat, as well as noting that he has won both the Wimbledon Cup (one of the premiere rifle-shooting competitions in the nation) and the U.S. Army Pistol Championship.
  • Ace Pilot: Downplayed and deconstructed and subverted in the case of Victor Hobie. He served as a helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War, and while he was second to top of his flight training class, he easily outperformed the first place pilot during wartime because of his lack of all meaningful emotion, including fear. This wasn't enough to save him from getting shot down, though, and when he came back to the States, he was on course to be the Big Bad of Tripwire. Subverted because the Big Bad isn't Hobie at all. He just stole Hobie's identity.
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  • Acrofatic: Downplayed with Beau Borken in Die Trying. He doesn't do anything very spectacular, but he is described as moving with surprising grace for someone of his weight.
  • 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.
  • And This Is for...:
    • Subverted in Killing Floor, where Reacher contemplates how, if he were a movie character, he would avenge his brother by dramatically confronting the killer and explaining the exact reason he wants vengeance before fighting honorably. Then Reacher dismisses that idea and instead decides to just smash the guy's head in, without any warning or explanation.
    • Lampshaded in Make Me, but then played straight at the climax of the book. Reacher muses that in the tales told by the firelight, this is how you should kill bad guys, because it would give peace to the people the bad guys have hurt. Then he goes up to shoot one of the Big Bad Duumvirate without saying a word. At the climax of the book, Reacher recalls this trope again, but is prevented from subverting it because the other Big Bad speaks first. This trope is finally played straight when Reacher's Girl of the Week says it before executing the Big Bad.
    Chang: This is for Keever.
    The bad guy had to be told.
    Chang: It could have been me.
  • 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, when Reacher tries to kill the villain quickly and impersonally, he misses and then proceeds to have a fist-fight with the guy.
    • Also lampshaded in The Hard Way:
    For half a second he thought about calling [the Big Bad's] name. Making him turn around, arms raised. Telling him why he was about to die...
    Then he thought about a fight. Man to man. With knives, or fists. Closure... maybe something fairer.
    Then he thought about Hobart, and he pulled the trigger.
    • Particularly noticeable in Worth Dying For, where the Duncans have kept an entire town as their personal fiefdom for over 25 years. Reacher takes them all out in about an hour.
  • Anti-Hero: Jack is notably an antithesis of this; whereas most comparable action heroes are dark figures tormented by addiction and haunted by past misbehavior, Jack is a teetotaller who maintains ties with legitimate authority; his personal ethics and wandering lifestyle are those of a modern Knight Errant.
  • Asshole Victim: Sloop Greer in Echo Burning. Subverted, when evidence arises that Carmen was lying about his abusing her. Double subverted when it turns out that she was telling the truth all along.
  • 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."
      • Subverted in a heartwarming moment during 'Echo Burning' when Reacher is left alone with the heroine's daughter, a six-year-old girl named Ellie. She comments on how big the ocean is (after Reacher is saying he grew up all over the world), and he replies with 'That's for sure'. Considering how utterly cold, blunt, brutal and ruthless Reacher has been in every single book ('Echo Burning' included), it's touching to see him actually watching his language around a child
    • And "Not good. Not good at all."
    • And you can't forget whenever Child mentions Jack hitting someone in the solar plexus (the area between the pecs and stomach).
  • Author Tract: Child has a sympathetic view on immigrants, homosexuals, minorities, and disabled veterans.
    • In Echo Burning, a major subplot highlights the plight of an undocumented immigrant family.
    • In The Hard Way, one of the plot's most critical characters is a quadruple amputee veteran who survived capture after a special operation gone wrong. The veteran now lives in squalid conditions with no money, much to Reacher's displeasure.
    • In The Enemy, Reacher has to deal with two dead gay soldiers, and the prejudice that was still rampant on the military in the early 1990s.
  • 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.
    • Reacher's mother once garroted a schoolmate who threatened to expose her work for the French Resistance to the Nazis.
  • Badass Bystander: Unusually for a protagonist, Reacher is essentially this. He normally doesn't have any specific involvement with the case at hand, getting involved purely out of circumstance and coincidence.
  • Badass Boast: If a fight is avoidable, Reacher usually resorts to this.
  • Badass Crew: Reacher's old 110th Special Investigative Unit.
  • Badass Family: Hell yeah.
    • Reacher... is Reacher.
    • Reacher's father, Stan, is a captain in Marine infantry. Reacher himself suggests that his father was even more stone-cold than he is.
    • Before he died, Reacher's brother, Joe, is a Treasury agent who single-handedly prevented foreigners from smuggling counterfeits into the U.S.
    • The most surprising of all, however, is Reacher's mother. At 13, she was an active member of the French Resistance, escorting fallen pilots to safety by pretending they were relatives. When a schoolmate threatened to expose her, she garroted him to death.
    • In Never Go Back, Reacher is hit with a paternity lawsuit alleging he's the father of a fourteen maybe fifteen year old girl. As he's also getting hit with a decades-old excessive force charge, Reacher knows the paternity suit is at best a distraction or at worst a trap. However, he has to make sure, so events happen in a way that make him head out to where the supposed mother and daughter are. He finds himself meeting Sam(antha) Dayton, a fourteen maybe fifteen year old girl who's tall and blond like him, with excellent observational skills, a penchant for wandering off by herself, casual dangerous conversations, etc. She's essentially a Badass In Training just missing a mentor father figure to help her to the next level. It's a damn shame Reacher and Sam's mother don't even know each other.
  • Bad-Guy Bar: The far-right hangout in Night School is a classic example.
  • 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.
  • Battle in the Rain: The confrontation on the mesa in Echo Burning.
  • Beauty = Goodness: Antagonists have a tendency to be old or unattractive, while protagonists (and almost always the Girl of the Week) are attractive. In The Visitor, Reacher meets a woman who he considers so unattractive that he posits aliens wouldn't think she and his beautiful then-girlfriend Jodie were the same species, much less the same gender; the same woman turns out to be the antagonist.
  • Been There, Shaped History: A very minor example, but Die Trying reveals that Reacher was singlehandedly responsible for the adoption of the Beretta 92 by the United States military instead of the Glock during the mid-1980s handgun trials, based upon an article he wrote while recovering from injuries.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Reacher routinely does this during the climaxes of his stories.
  • Big Eater:
    • Reacher qualifies as this, especially given his size.
    • Sheriff Elizabeth Devereaux in The Affair is another example. Reacher watches her put away a cheeseburger and fries and notes:
    She was a slim woman. She must have had a metabolism like a nuclear reactor.
  • The Big Guy: Reacher stands at 6'5" 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.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Reacher is a huge guy who generally has absolute confidence in a fight. That doesn't typically stop random mooks from thinking they can take him down, even if they also know of his military background. Generally, this leads to a Once an Episode moment of Reacher beating down some thug who made the mistake of thinking he was easy pickings.
  • Bully Hunter: Reacher is essentially a highly-trained adult version of this. He has mentioned before that he does what he does not out of any specific sympathy for "the little guy", but simply that he hates "the big guy", meaning those who attempt to extort and bully others.
  • Busman's Holiday: In his never ending sightseeing journey of USA, Reacher stumbles into more than a few conspiracies and criminals. Hilarity Ensues.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Reacher has never thought much of John Kott, the rogue sniper he arrested in his Army days. Kott, however, takes his arrest as a personal insult and looks to get even with Reacher as soon as he's finished his prison time.
  • 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.
  • Chick Magnet: Reacher's attractive enough to get a Girl of the Week, after all, though that doesn't stop other women for falling for him as well. Tellingly, the Red Herring Girl of the Week in The Visitor isn't interested in him, and she turns out to be a villain, while the real Girl of the Week is attracted to him.
  • Cold Sniper: John Kott, the rogue sniper in Personal. After getting arrested by Reacher, he dedicates his whole life trying to get back at him.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Reacher, most prominently. Eye gouging, throat slitting, Groin Attack, etc., anything to kill his enemies quickly.
  • Continuity Nod: While each novel stands well on its own, there are periodically references to events that happened in previous books.
    • At many points throughout the books, mention is made of a brother of Reacher's, who also served in the military. This brother's death was a major plot point in the very first Jack Reacher novel, Killing Floor.
    • In The Visitor/Running Blind, Reacher is mentioned as having suffocated someone to death exactly once. The narrative's description of the act matches what he did to a minor character in Die Trying.
    • In Without Fail, Reacher is shown as having a file in the FBI database, which was created when he worked with them during The Visitor/Running Blind.
    • In One Shot, Reacher's lover notices a scar on his chest from a gunshot. Reacher comments that he got it in New York years prior. Specifically, at the end of Tripwire.
      • Later, the fact that he has a large scar on his abdomen (originally mentioned in Die Trying) becomes a minor plot point.
    • The books 61 Hours, Worth Dying For, A Wanted Man and Never Go Back all lead exactly into each other:
      • Reacher is still suffering the effects of the ending of 61 Hours a couple of days later, when Worth Dying For begins. While it's not major enough to change the course of the plot, it is touched upon from time to time until he receives medical treatment for it.
      • Reacher's nose is broken during a confrontation in Worth Dying For and he's still got his improvised first aid at the start of A Wanted Man, which starts a few hours later.
      • In Never Go Back he manages to finally get to Virginia, having decided to go there at the end of 61 Hours on the strength of the phone conversations he has with someone there. It essentially takes him two and a half books to get there.
    • Reacher buries his mother in The Enemy. Later, in Personal, he visits the grave.
  • 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.
  • Create Your Own Villain: Gone Tomorrow is all about the fallout from this happening on a national level. The villains are Afghan terrorists—who had once fought off the Soviet invasion with covert US help. And the macguffin that both sides are trying desperately to get back is a photograph of a diplomatic meeting between US Special Forces and Osama bin Laden.
  • 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.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: It is rare for anyone to give Reacher serious trouble in a fistfight. This is especially true in later books, which show him easily taking on highly-trained fighters and coming out unscathed.
  • 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.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Reacher gets this way very often, especially when talking to people he doesn't like. A prime example from Gone Tomorrow as the villains, a pair of Afghan terrorists, are preparing to kill him after he runs out of ammunition, and so make him empty his pockets and strip off his clothes, then critique his few belongings:
    Svetlana Hoth: You’re a poor man.
    Reacher: No, I’m a rich man. To have everything you need is the definition of affluence.
    Svetlana: The American dream, then. To die rich.
    Reacher: Opportunity for all.
    Svetlana: We have more than you, where we come from.
    Reacher: I don’t like goats.
  • Den of Iniquity: The female messenger's meeting place in Night School is utterly one of these, complete with Bestiality Is Depraved and Bondage Is Bad.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Reacher comes this close to shooting himself after he finds out the cop and the witness he's sworn to protect in 61 Hours have been murdered. He actually has to have someone talk him out of it.
  • 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.
    • Reacher also does not sleep with Casey Nice in Personal. The book implies that Nice just feels too young for Reacher, who by this point of the series has reached more than fifty years old.
  • Disability Alibi: James Barr, a former Army sniper, is accused of the sniper murders, but Jack doesn't believe it. The shoots were from a rather awkward position when a better one was available, and the only miss conveniently preserved the bullet. This suggests that Barr simply isn't a good enough marksman to have pulled off the killings: they had to have been performed by one of the finest shooters in the world, and Barr was merely decent. It turns out that not only was James Barr framed, but the shooter choose the position not to kill random people but a specific person to hide among a random spree.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Frances Neagley, an old crew of Reacher's in his 110th Special Investigative Unit. She is as capable a profiler and as stone-cold a soldier as Reacher is. One time Reacher admits that he is almost scared of her.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: Deconstructed in The Affair, when Reacher debates the advantage gained from the intimidation factor of cocking his shotgun versus the disadvantage of having one fewer shell in the gun if it comes to a shoot out.
  • Driven to Suicide: Gone Tomorrow opens with Reacher identifying a woman on the subway as a suicide bomber in action. When he tries to talk her out of it, she pulls a gun, instead of a bomb, out of her bag—then blows her own brains out. The cause: the villains had been blackmailing her to steal classified information from Army records, then they killed her son when she couldn't deliver the information in time.
  • 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.
    • Killing Floor has a substantial Reacher-inflicted body count, Die Trying has somewhat fewer, then it settles down to more modest numbers. With occasional peaks thereafter, but not the same action-adventure glee as the early novels.
  • 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.
  • Evil Plan: Most Reacher villains make use of very down-to-earth but nevertheless highly effective Plot Devices to enact their plans, sometimes bordering on MacGuffin territory. Determining the identity of the Plot Device generally composes a huge portion of the plot, to the point where a single sentence can give away the entire story.
  • 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 red-blooded seducer, but he will not sleep with a married womannote . Also, while he routinely kills bad guys in cold blood, he will not murder a guy he's never seen himself.
  • 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. After this, he had to be talked out of suicide.
  • 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. Yo 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.
    • In Personal, Reacher teams up with Casey Nice, a CIA officer tasked to help him hunt down a rogue sniper. He doesn't sleep with her.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Reacher is often portrayed like this.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: How Reacher typically fights. He may have military training and experience, but he's a brawler first and foremost.
  • 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.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: General Tom O'Day in Personal. After the book's climactic fight, it's revealed that O'Day is the one who ordered John Kott to snipe at the French president, which prompted U.S. intelligence to reach out to Reacher, the MP who's once arrested Kott in the past, in effect triggering the plot of the book. Reacher doesn't kill O'Day on the spot because he has to make sure nothing happens to his partner, Casey Nice.
  • 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.
  • Hates Being Touched: Frances Neagley. This conveniently keeps her relationship with Reacher strictly platonic, allowing her to be a recurring sidekick rather than a particularly talented Girl of the Week.
  • 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.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Defied, any time a silenced weapon it appears the author or Reacher is quick to point out how they don't sound like they do in the movies. One book describes a suppressed Steyr GB as sounding like a book being thrown on the floor.
  • Honor Before Reason:
    • Sometimes crops up, especially when dealing with military-trained people or with people who have something to prove. And sometimes when they're trying to set up Reacher to frame himself.
    • Reacher occasionally thinks like this, but most of the time he prefers the practical solutions of finishing off a fight or a bad guy as swift and clean as possible.
  • Humble Pie: Towards the end of Echo Burning, Reacher brings this up by name, in typical snarky fashion. It very much applies to the person he's talking to.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: In Echo Burning, some corrupt border patrol agents were doing this to illegal Mexican immigrants before an investigation scared them off. It turns out that the 'agents' in question are characters we've seen all throughout the story.
    • The main plot of Past Tense. They're Bow Hunting People.
  • Icy Blue Eyes: Reacher has the "piercing and icy" variety, befitting his personality.
  • I Know You Know I Know: Reacher gets into a mental version with one of these with a killer at the end of Echo Burning. He spends several moments trying to predict where they are going to move, and how they will know where he will move, and so on. Subverted, as Reacher actually killed them during their initial exchange of bullets, but the low visibility meant that he had no idea.
  • 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. 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 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.
    • Ironically inverted in Personal, where Reacher goes after a rogue sniper he arrested back in his Army days. The sniper, having completed his time in prison, is now free and obsessed with Reacher, even though Reacher himself has never thought much of him.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Reacher is typically written this way. He's very blunt when he speaks, and can be an asshole to people he doesn't want to speak with. That said, he does go above and beyond in his efforts to protect people and help out those in need.
  • Knife Nut: The villains of Gone Tomorrow, whose favorite method of execution is disembowelment. In contrast, Reacher says that he hates using knives, and he'll only do it if he can't get a better weapon.
  • 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.
  • The Last DJ: His entire military career was this; he spent twenty years in the Army total, making Major over the course of the first thirteen, only to be demoted to Captain for some offense, spent seven more years working his way up to Major again... and then "retired" because he finally got fed up with getting punished for catching his superiors with their hands in the cookie jar.
    • In 61 Hours it's revealed that he 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.
    • In the end, he started Walking the Earth just to get a look at the country he was defending, having been a Military Brat who didn't even see the US until he was nine.
      "Look out the window. Tell me what you see. You see the same things that you see everyday. Well, imagine you've never seen it. Imagine you spent your whole life in other parts of the world, being told everyday that you're defending freedom. Then you finally decide you've had enough. Time to see what you've given up your whole life for, everything. Get some of that "freedom" for yourself. Look at the people. You tell me which ones are free. Free from debt. Anxiety. Stress. Fear. Failure. Indignity. Betrayal. How many wish that they were born knowing what they know now? Ask yourself how many would do things the same way over again, and how many would live their lives like me."
  • Last-Name Basis: He is known as Reacher, by everyone including his mother. One person managed to use this as a warning.
  • Macguffin: In Gone Tomorrow, both the US government and the terrorists are trying to retrieve a classified data file that a dead woman extracted from Army records. Reacher, on the other hand, just wants to find out why the woman died and kill those responsible—so he only cares about that file to the extent that it helps him solve the mystery. And when the finally find the USB stick holding the file, it had already been run over by a car, destroying it.
  • 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.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: In The Affair, Reacher and Sheriff Elizabeth Devereaux have sex on the ground right next to a railroad track. Right as the midnight train (and Reacher, and Devereaux) are coming.note  The questionable (and gravel-covered) location makes somewhat more sense in context.
  • Mathematician's Answer: Reacher does this sometimes when he doesn't feel like sharing information. In The Enemy, an officer is asking him about a general's death, to which he replies that the general had a heart attack. Where? In his chest cavity. The officer is not amused.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot:
    • Worth Dying For: One douchebag beating his wife -> his entire family (minus his wife) were 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.
    • Also crops up in Echo Burning; he has a mix of factory ammo and hand-loads for his rifles, but doesn't trust the hand-loaded shells he has, guessing they'll be massively overpowered, so he decides to use their inevitable huge muzzle flash to just illuminate things and find a target. He's right.
  • Neck Snap: Whenever Reacher wants a stealthy or quick kill, he does this with ease die to his strength. Sometimes after the act, he twists and turns the head to make sure the spinal cord is fully severed.
  • Never Bring A Knife To A Fistfight: Subverted in Gone Tomorrow. The villains corner Reacher and disarm him, then set their own guns down and brandish knives instead. They're clearly looking forward to a knife-vs-fist fight. Then Reacher pulls out his own knife, which he had duct-taped to his back earlier, making for a much more even fight.
  • New Powers At The Plot Demands: Reacher has a habit of gaining new skills or abilities as needed. Notably, in the first book he wears a watch, yet in the second it's revealed that he always knows what time it is. Other aspects of his character, such as his ability to wake himself up on command, his love of math, and his near-superhuman sniping skills appear in later books as needed.
  • Nuke 'em: Discussed in Night School, when Reacher and his colleagues are trying to figure out what's being traded. The idea hangs over their heads for a while, but not very long — everyone would know if a nuke went missing, considering how many safeguards are layered on them. The truth isn't quite so simple.
  • One Phone Call: Reacher plays this straight in One Shot when he gets arrested.
  • 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.
  • Pet the Dog: In both a figurative and a literal sense. Reacher is gruff and can be a bit of a Jerkass, but he tends to be somewhat softer when talking to children, the elderly, or the disabled. In the more literal sense, it's noted repeatedly that Reacher loves dogs and has considered adopting one at times. Tellingly, his reaction to a dog's slow death in Bad Luck and Trouble shows considerably more concern than he does for most human death.
  • Positive Discrimination: The Girl of the Week has a tendency to be smarter, tougher, and more competent than most of the characters, while the male supporting characters have a tendency to be selfish, weak, stupid, or smarmy.
  • 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.
  • Properly Paranoid: Reacher, a lot. He's always alert. This is discussed briefly in One Shot, where Reacher comments half-jokingly that he was simply Born Lucky. Not long after, he refuses to go to the door to accept room service, because nobody can know he's in the hotel room with his lover.
    Hutton: You never relax, do you?
    Reacher: The less I relax, the luckier I get.
  • Rare Guns: Several novels feature Reacher making use of a Steyr GB, a relatively rare German handgun that only had limited production and importation in the US.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Leon Garber, Jack Reacher's commanding officer.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Reacher settles in with a love interest at the end of one book, but by the next one he's so accustomed to his roaming ways, he goes back to traveling
    • After killing Paulie, Reacher has a DEA agent man a makeshift machine gun turret while he and the two other DEA agents find out where the guns and a missing agent the Big Bad intend to sell are. Unfortunately, when they get back, the agent has been killed and the bad guys are having their meeting as planned. Reacher finds out the gun he set up (a Soviet NSV belonging to the late [[spoiler: roided-up, henchman Paulie hadn't being used for years, as it had been peacefully swing on a chain a giant "don't mess with me sign". It not being used for decades caused it to jam after one shot and the agent gets taken out.
  • Revenge: What this series is all about, according to its author. See the quote above.
  • Riddle for the Ages: In Killing Floor, Reacher figures out that both sides are trying to retrieve a missing photograph. The US government wants it because the photo's release would be disastrous for an up-and-coming senator... while an Afghan terrorist cell wants it because the photo's release would be even more disastrous for their cause. No one (outside the terrorists) can even guess why this photo would hurt the terrorists that much. And the photo gets destroyed before anyone can see it, anyway.
  • 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.
    • In Personal, one character who has known him and his lifestyle a long time in fact refers to him as 'Sherlock Homeless'.
  • Shoe Phone: In Persuader, Reacher starts off with an actual texting device concealed in his shoe.
  • Shown Their Work: While the books are not infallible, Child has strong knowledge of the military and its strategy, and lets you know it.
  • The Sociopath:
    • Quite a few villains from the series fall into this category, but special mention goes to Victor Hobie a.k.a. Carl Allen, who is specifically described as simply not feeling anything, for better or for worse.
    • Reacher himself could also be considered this, as in The Hard Way the narration notes that "the remorse gene" does not exist in his DNA.
    • Mark Reacher, a distance cousin of Jack Reacher, from Past Tense seems like this, trying to make every decision dispassionately. He had no qualms killing his own teammates.
  • Stepping Out for a Quick Cup of Coffee: In Echo Burning, Alice Amanda Aaron does this for Reacher.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Tap on the Head: Used on occasion.
    • In Tripwire, Reacher does it to three different people in order to acquire a firearm, and specifically pulls his punches so they won't be killed or permanently injured, just temporarily knocked out.
    • In The Visitor (Running Blind in the US), Reacher subdues a thug with three separate blows to the head. This trope is immediately lampshaded. Three blows to the head is enough to take someone out of a fight. It's also a pretty bad concussion. Later in the same novel, the Big Bad is outright killed by a punch to the head (that breaks their neck).
  • Theme Naming: Subverted and played straight - on separate occasions, though.
    • In Gone Tomorrow Sansom's old friend from Special Forces alternately gives his name as Browning and Springfield—both rifle manufacturers (it's never stated which, if either, name is real). Reacher just remarks that, if all your false names follow a clear pattern, it defeats the purpose of having a false name in the first place.
    • OTOH, Reacher regularly uses the names of Yankees second basemen as aliases - this keeps away people who've only heard of him in passing, yet enables people he wants to stay in touch with like his friends in the military can find him relatively easily.
  • 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.
    • Mother's Rest in Make Me. Suicidals are lured into this town by a gang of snuff film producers who claim that they can make the suicide as painless as possible. Once there, however, the suicidals are imprisoned and forced to become victim to the gang's snuff films.
  • 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.
  • What Have You Done for Me Lately?: Said word per word by Reacher's CO, Colonel Garber. This is important in context because it's the straw that breaks Reacher's back in the Army. After insulting an Obstructive Bureaucrat officer while investigating a serial killing involving a Special Ops major, Reacher finds himself on the Army's separation list. Garber is willing to take Reacher off the separation list, but warns Reacher that the Army will never allow Reacher to advance past his current rank. When Reacher protests, Garber asks him this question, implicitly telling Reacher that it's time to get out.
  • Why We're Bummed Communism Fell: The collapse of the Berlin Wall is a major plot point in The Enemy. Most are led to assume that the cutbacks that followed in subsequent years are the implied reason Reacher left - for the real reason, see The Last DJ.


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