Never Go Back

Written by

Lee Child

Notable Characters:

  • Jack Reacher
  • Maj. Susan Turner
  • Captain Edwards
  • Sgt Leach
  • Major Sullivan
  • Lt. Col. Morgan
  • Samatha Dayton

Publish Date:

  • August 29, 2013


Country of Origin:


  • English


Jack Reacher novels are addictive, intense, and quick. The best example of action presented through words.

In the novel ’61 Hours’, Reacher needed help and turned to the new commanding officer of his old élite military police unit the 110th Special Unit, Major Susan Turner. He liked the sound of her voice. So much so, that he’s spent the next three novels trying to get to her in Virginia. It’s been a long hard journey for a man with little to no cash, no vehicle, and some really bad luck. Trouble doesn’t just find Reacher, it finds Reacher and then Reacher exacts Biblical style justice on those who cause the trouble.

Lee Child
Lee Child

Reacher lives life by simple rules, don’t mess with him and he won’t mess with you. And don’t mess with innocent people in his presence–he really doesn’t handle that well. So this is a man without many possessions except his folding toothbrush and the clothes on his back who travels the country exploring and helping people where needed.

In ‘Never Go Back’ Reacher finally returns “home” to the 110th Special Unit looking for Maj. Turner. And what he finds is more trouble–actually it once again finds him with previously mentioned inevitable results. Reacher is brought back into active service using a small print loophole in the contract Officers in the Army must sign. And facing TWO serious charges from past events Reacher must now scrabble to free himself. And his not yet met new friend Major Susan Turner is also in trouble facing a treason charge.

I never read a Jack Reacher novel looking too closely at the details–coincidences occur like clockwork. As a thriller/action type novel the traditional method of taking time to find, examine, and then reflect on the evidence must take a backseat to the actions of Reacher and the bad guys. He’s a doer above all else, he thinks while he moves. So, as expected, this novel moves very fast without much exposition.

Lots of new adventures and tasks populate his day as he both uncovers new truths, explores new avenues, and exacts his form of justice on those deserving. In this book we get a prison escape, a cross-country journey and back, multiple hand to hand fights, a few deaths (a low body count for once), a few new friends, a few new enemies, and a whole lot of fun.

The only real criticism in this book is Reacher’s dependence on Maj. Turner as an ally (even with the fringe benefits;)). It’s usually nice for a main character to have allies, but in Reacher’s case it usually ends badly. And Reacher as a lone wolf is much more dangerous. Without someone holding him back he ruthlessly pursues his enemies. Turner refers to him as “feral” and that’s an accurate description for him much of the time. So with allies Reacher is usually less entertaining to read because his actions are more restrained.

Lee Child is often criticized for his commercial writing style. Simple words, not much description or details to slow down the action, and lots of violence. That’s all true, Reacher doesn’t spend any time reflecting on his decisions, either in the past or now. You only get a picture of the man from his actions in each subsequent novel (now 18 of them). But, Child also understands the importance of right vs wrong. Reacher is not an anti-hero. He always takes the noble path, even if it means killing someone or breaking rules and laws. He simply acts when the rest of us would think first and hesitate. He places other’s lives above his, often to great personal sacrifice.

And more importantly, Reacher is a very smart investigator and reader of people. He instinctively knows when people are lying and how there actions might fit together to form a bigger picture. He almost never provokes a fight for no reason. This gives him a kind of ‘Ronin’ quality. The lone master-less samurai who seeks knowledge and justice for the weak. Making Reacher novels very compulsive reading. Like action movies in the mind–the best examples of this I’ve ever read.

It didn’t take very long to get through ‘Never Go Back. I regretted putting it down. And now I’ve got to wait until the next installment, probably in 2014:(

It’s not the best of the series, the last one ‘A Wanted Man’ was pretty strong. But ‘Never Go Back’ has everything good about a Reacher novel and almost none of the bad. Recommended.

Book Report Card



  • Delacorte, US
  • Bantam Press, UK

Pages:  416