Reacher’s next deadly thrill

Bantam, £17.99
by Zoe Strimpel

AT THE end of Child’s previous novel, 61 Hours, maverick man-with-gun Jack Reacher was trapped in a desperate situation from which escape seemed impossible – even for him. But, just like Lisbeth Salander, Stieg Larsson’s super violent super-genius, Reacher always finds a way.

Which brings us to Reacher’s latest predicament. On his way by foot through Nebraska, where his last travails left him, the red-blooded Reacher is heading for Virginia to meet an intriguing woman – the CO of the 110th Special Unit. But being Reacher, nothing’s straightforward and he soon lands in deadly trouble in the Nebraskan wilds. First he falls foul of the Duncans, a local clan that has terrified an entire county into lockdown while it awaits a shipment. But it’s the unsolved case of a missing eight-year-old girl, already decades-old, that Reacher can’t let go. Soon Reacher finds himself heading off a clan who – while dangerous – are only at the bottom of a criminal food chain stretching halfway around the world.

As for Reacher himself; he’s not unlike Salander: almost stupidly courageous, pig-headed and extremely skilled. His worldview is ever so slightly warped, though, but then that’s what keeps us coming back for more. “He lived in a world where you don’t start fights but you sure as hell finish them, and you don’t lose them either, and he was the inheritor of generations of hard-won wisdom that said the best way to lose them was to assume they were over when they weren’t yet.”

This is another cracking story from Child, who just seems to get better and better. Bring on the next one.

Piatkus, £7.99
by Zoe Strimpel

ROSAMUND LUPTON’S debut novel is the stuff of first-time novelists’ dreams; having been selected by Richard and Judy’s bookclub, it took off to become sixth on the bestseller list. She’s up there with Stieg Larsson. Not bad for a TV scriptwriter from west London.

The story is simple but effective: Beatrice gets a call in the middle of Sunday lunch in New York from her mother saying that her younger sister Tess has gone missing. Off she goes to London to look for her. As she learns about the circumstances surrounding her sister’s life, she starts to realise how little she knew her. As the sordid and the scandalous details begin to emerge, the police, Beatrice’s fiancé and her mother all accept that Tess is gone. But Beatrice isn’t going to let go until she gets to the very bottom of it all; as horrifying a journey as this may be.

It’s a testament to British readers that they love the book so much, for it’s not airport guff, by any stretch. Take this opening paen from Beatrice, a letter to Tess, after she finds out her sister’s gone. “How can touching and seeing and hearing – all those sensory receptors and optic nerves and vibrating eardrums – be substituted by a letter? But we’ve managed to use words as go-betweens before, haven’t we? When I went off to boarding school and we had to replace games and laughter and low-voiced confidences for letters to each other. I remember word for word your seven-year-old reply to my fragmented homesickness and that your writing was invisible until I shone a torch onto the paper. Ever since kindness has smelled of lemons.”

Heady stuff. For my taste, a bit too heady, in the style of the creative writing class student. But clearly Lupton has done something very right indeed, and at the end of the day, her story is about the bonds of family and the wedges that come through them.

Quercus, £17.99
by Zoe Strimpel

SCANDINAVIAN THRILLERS have long been popular – think of Peter Hoeg’s Smilla’s Sense of Snow (Danish) and Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s My Soul To Take (Icelandic). But the Swedish Stieg Larsson – also published in the UK by Quercus – has set off a new wave of popularity for the genre. Must be something about the cold weather there.

The setting is – rather deliciously – that intense Nordic landscape of sea buckthorn, fog and cloud berries.

It’s a story of murderous small town secrets which are eeked out after a child goes missing. It’s a clear winter’s day when Anders and his wife take their 6-year-old daughter Maja out for a walk across the frozen sea to the lighthouse at Gavasten. Since nobody is around, they let her run ahead. Then she disappears.

Two years later, Anders’ wife has left him and Anders himself is an alcoholic. He returns to the cabin they were staying in when Maja went missing and soon begins to feel a presence. He immediately thinks of Maja. But soon he starts feeling other presences- of other people gone missing. Is it the drink or is something truly sinister going on? The answer is the latter. If fellow Swede Larsson’s legacy is anything to go by, Lindqvist is worth paying attention to.