Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index




to e-mail us:

support the site

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK

In association with Amazon.ca - Canada

the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Lee Child

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Persuader

Title: Persuader
Author: Lee Child
Genre: Novel
Written: 2003
Length: 465 pages
Availability: Persuader - US
Persuader - UK
Persuader - Canada
Ne pardonne jamais - France
Der Janusmann - Deutschland
La vittima designata - Italia
El inductor - España
from: Bookshop.org (US)
  • The seventh Jack Reacher novel

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

B : solid, twisty thriller

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 10/3/2003 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "(L)ittle in Child's novels is as it at first seems, and numerous further plot twists spark the story line. What makes the novel really zing, though, is Reacher's narration -- a unique mix of the brainy and the brutal, of strategic thinking and explosive action, moral rumination and ruthless force, marking him as one of the most memorable heroes in contemporary thrillerdom. Any thriller fan who has yet to read Lee Child should start now." - Publishers Weekly
  • "Given the riskiness of Child’s creative processes, the novels can’t be equally good. It’s not that they aren’t all supremely, unstoppably readable; it’s that some of them have an extra quality of freshness and surprise. The very best is the one with the twistiest plot, Persuader. (Surely - surely ? -- Child must have worked at least some of that one out in advance.)" - John Lanchester, The New Yorker (14/11/2016)

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.

- Return to top of the page -

The complete review's Review:

       Persuader begins with a bang -- and a lot of action, with Jack Reacher right in the thick of things. It also begins with Reacher doing something that shocks us: readers are used to how he deals with the bad guys, and they all deserve it, but here, aside from taking out some bad guys he takes another shot which we normally wouldn't expect him to. It feels all wrong, and readers may well wonder what's gotten into Child: Reacher does have a code, and he seems to blow right through it here .....
       Even before Reacher does the what-we-thought-was-unthinkable, Child hooks the reader right with the opening lines:

     The cop climbed out of his car exactly four minutes before he got shot. He moved like he knew his fate in advance.
       Yes, the technique is one Child uses elsewhere, too --- the precise amount of time; the preview of the outcome before the slow, deliberate unfolding of the scene -- but it certainly grabs you here. (And, once everything has played out, readers can see that it's also a very cleverly phrased opening.)
       And, after the action-packed opening pages, Child follows up with another solid opening to the second chapter:
     Truth is by that point I had been in for eleven whole days, since a damp shiny Saturday night in the city of Boston when I saw a dead man walk across a sidewalk and get into a car. It wasn't a delusion. It wasn't an uncanny resemblance. It wasn't a double or a twin or a brother or a cousin. It was a man who died a decade ago. There was no doubt about it.
       It's a man named Quinn, and Reacher was the one who had killed him. Clearly, Reacher had, in fact, not managed to finish him off -- and, yes, he now wants to make sure he really puts an end to him. As flashbacks interspersed throughout the novel will reveal, Reacher has a history with Quinn, and wants revenge for what Quinn was responsible for, back in the day. Quinn remains out of sight -- and hence out of Reacher's reach -- for much of the novel -- but Reacher is kept busy, and on his toes, along the way to the inevitable confrontation.
       Many things in this novel are not what they seem at first sight. That's also something Reacher is counting on, when he agrees to take part in an off-the-books operation run by Susan Duffy, who works for the Justice Department, in drug enforcement. She made a mistake in gathering evidence against a major drug dealer and the Justice Department disowned the operation; Duffy went off-book and only made things worse, losing track of an agent sent in undercover. She really wants to set things right -- and save her agent. And Reacher came onto her radar when he started looking into the dead man he saw, who apparently has some connection to the drug dealers.
       The man Duffy is hunting is named Zachary Beck, who runs a company that imports Oriental rugs in Maine -- presumably a cover for a much, much bigger operation. Duffy's problem is that he's hard to find:
     "We don't know where to look. We don't know where Beck goes. We don't even know where he lives. He has nbo registered property. His house must be owned by some phantom corporation. It's a needle in a haystack."
     "Haven't you tailed him ?"
     "We've tried. he has bodyguards and drivers. They're too good."
       Figuring that Beck is the key to Quinn, Reacher helps Duffy come up with a plan, and it starts out pretty well. Reacher manages to infiltrate the Beck household -- a very secure site in Maine, which there's no easy getting in or out of, with metal detectors at the doors .... -- and have them think that he could be of use to them -- but, of course, it's a very dangerous game he's playing.
       Reacher and Duffy cover what they can in the planning, and they think they've done a pretty good job. Duffy's send-off is:
     "Good luck," she said. "I don't think we've missed anything."
     But we had missed a lot of things. They were glaring errors in our thinking and they all came back to haunt me.
       Ah, yes, the warning of what lies ahead, and then the slow, suspenseful roll-out of just what exactly went wrong .....
       Reacher is put in a difficult position. Beck is suspicious, of course, but Reacher's story checks out for the time being -- though he knows he's on the clock: it will only hold for so long. Of course, Reacher is -- to Beck -- not what he seems -- but then that is practically the theme running through the novel, of everyone being fooled, or at least misinterpreting what they see. As Beck's son tells Reacher:
"People are such suckers."
     "Are they ?"
     He looked at me and nodded. "They see what they want to see."
     "Do they ?"
     "All the time."
       Of course, this allows Child to have a lot of fun, as the various characters learn what's actually going on .....
       Beck isn't exactly who he seems, either -- or at least his role isn't exactly that which Duffy initially thinks it is. In fact, his fortress is something of a prison, too, and it becomes clear that he answers to someone else. In fact, Beck is a role-player and puppet: as Beck's wife explains to Reacher:
I can't object what they do to me, just like my husband can't object to what they do to him. Nobody can object. To anything, you see. That's the point. You won't be allowed to object to anything, either.
       (What she, in particular, can't object to makes for some of the most disturbing parts of the book, as Child goes very far in on a particular kind of sadism throughout this book.)
       It is Quinn who is in control -- but, as noted, Quinn isn't really a presence until deep into the book. Still, Reacher does have to deal with his on-site muscle, the cartoonishly over-sized Paulie ("He was way bigger than me, which put him firmly in the freak category. He was a giant"), who guards the gate to the Beck-estate. Paulie -- with biceps so big he can't touch his shoulders with his fingers -- takes a dislike to Reacher, and the feeling is mutual; from the first, they get into a series of confrontations -- and, yes, it all builds to one hell of a final clash. As Reacher notes, "steroid muscle is dumb muscle"; still, Paulie has an awful lot of it .....
       All along the way, Reacher also looks back to what happened a decade earlier, another investigation gone wrong. Here, too, the action ratchets up as the novel progresses, and we learn just how bad a guy Quinn was: when Reacher reaches the scene that will then lead him to make sure Quinn gets his he: "threw up on the floor and then for the first time in more than twenty years I cried" -- so, yeah: pretty bad.
       Things get messy, of course, but Reacher does what he has to do -- and, of course, gets the job(s) done. Sure: "I broke every regulation and ignored every procedure in the book" -- but readers would expect nothing less.
       It's all fairly satisfying, though a few of the curveballs are a bit annoying, such as Beck's son getting in the way, again, late in the game. Reacher does kill quite a few people, but they did have it coming; some of the other violence -- particularly that perpetrated by Paulie -- is more disturbingly gratuitous. And Quinn is a bit disappointing as nemesis, because he's in the picture for only such a small part of the novel.
       Plot-wise, Persuader is pretty good -- once one suspends disbelief about the extent of Duffy's off-the-book operation. Mostly, too, the novel is very well driven by Child's familiar straightforward, crisp writing -- though there are a few atypical off-notes: Child is usually better than, for example: "the refrigeration had broken down in the enlisted mess kitchens and the ice cream had turned to water" (surely that should at least be 'milky water' or something; melted ice cream never bears any resemblance, in appearance or texture, to simple water). And while he likes to go for the over-the-top in some of his characters and descriptions, the hyperbole is usually just that and he is pedantically precise about physical action and reaction (in describing blows landing or bullets ripping through something, etc.), but here, for example, he has Reacher pick up a rock:
It was a little bigger than a softball. I swung my arm, wide and flat and fast, like I was going to slap him in the face. The momentum would have taken my arm off at the shoulder if I had missed.
       Umm ... no: aside from being a physical impossibility, surely a miss would just swing Reacher uncomfortably around. To say it would rip his arm off is just silly (and, as noted, just isn't something Child, or Reacher, would say: when they describe the expected or actual consequences of a punch or kick or shot they are at pains to do so very accurately).
       Persuader is a solid read and thriller. Apparently it's widely considered to be one of the best of the Reacher-novels; I don't agree with that, but it's satisfying enough.

- M.A.Orthofer, 2 September 2023

- Return to top of the page -


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

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       British author Lee Child was born in 1954.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2023-2024 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links