Jack Reacher Book Summaries

#1 Killing Floor (March 1997) [Amazon]

After hopping off a Greyhound bus to pursue a whim (finding out what happened to a musician, “Blind Blake”). Reacher is arrested and charged with murder.

After an attempt on his life while being held over the weekend in a state prison, Reacher is determined to figure out what happened. Later he finds out that the person he was framed for murdering was Joe Reacher, his brother. Unknowingly, Jack Reacher had stumbled into one of the biggest counterfeiting schemes in the United States. Subsequently, he takes on the vicious and ruthless butchers of a well established town gang operating a massive counterfeit notes racket.

This novel is set in the fictional town of Margrave, Georgia.

#2 Die Trying (July 1998) [Amazon]

While helping Holly Johnson, an attractive young woman struggling with her crutches on a Chicago street, they turn around only to discover two handguns pointing at them.

Reacher and the woman are thrown into a dark van and taken 2000 miles across America, completely unaware why they were kidnapped and where they are going.

Finding themselves trapped in a seemingly remote place, they must work together to find the answers.

#3 Tripwire (July 1999) [Amazon]

Hanging around in Key West, digging pools by hand and moonlighting as a bouncer for a topless bar, Reacher finds himself wanted in New York by a Mrs. Jacob.

She turns out to be the divorced wealthy attorney Jodie Garber, daughter of General Leon Garber, Reacher’s mentor and surrogate father in the Army. Jodie hired an investigator to find Reacher because her father was dying.

Jack and Jodie begin investigating her father’s last project, a search on behalf of the elderly parents of their military MIA son. They soon find themselves hunted by a psychopath businessman and military criminal crippled in the Vietnam War, who has a shadowy business and other secrets to protect.

Reacher inherits a house and a steady girlfriend, and contemplates the joys of sedentary life.

#4 Running Blind (April 2000) [Amazon]

(also published as “The Visitor” in the UK)

It’s tough being a high-flying woman in the Army. Very tough. When Sergeant Amy Callan and Lieutenant Caroline Cook are found dead in their own homes – in baths filled with Army-issue camouflage paint, their bodies completely unmarked – Jack Reacher is under suspicion. He knew them both – and he knows that they both left the Army under dubious circumstances, both victims of sexual harassment.

A former U.S. military policeman, a loner and a drifter, he matches the psychological profile prepared by the FBI, and is arrested by ambitious Special Agent Julia Lamarr. But when the body of another woman, Sergeant Lorraine Stanley, is discovered, killed with similar precision, Reacher is released. Everyone fears there is a serial killer on the loose. But the FBI know something in Reacher’s past and have strong persuasive powers. Before long Reacher finds himself heavily involved in the murder investigation.

He has to find out what these women have in common and why someone is out to do them harm.

#5 Echo Burning (April 2001) [Amazon]

Hitching rides is an unreliable mode of transport. In temperatures of over a hundred degrees, you’re lucky if a driver will open the door of his air-conditioned car long enough to let you slide in. That’s Jack Reacher’s conclusion.

He’s adrift in the fearsome heat of a Texas summer, and he needs to keep moving through the wide open vastness, like a shark in the water. The last thing he’s worried about is exactly who picks him up. He never expected it to be somebody like Carmen. She’s alone, driving a Cadillac. She’s beautiful, young and rich. She has a little girl who is being watched by unseen observers. And a husband who is in jail. Who will beat her senseless when he comes out. If he doesn’t kill her first. Reacher is no stranger to trouble. And at Carmen’s remote ranch in Echo County there is plenty of it: lies and prejudice, hatred and murder.

Reacher can never resist a lady in distress. Her family is hostile, the cops can’t be trusted and the lawyers won’t help.

#6 Without Fail (April 2002) [Amazon]

Reacher arrives in Atlantic City, New Jersey, after hitching a ride with a couple of aging musicians. He is accosted there by Mary Ellen (M. E.) Froelich, a beautiful secret service agent who managed to track him down.

She has a special request for him: she consults him on how he could kill the Vice-President; countering those methods would help her considerably in her job: protecting the Vice-President. He accepts the challenge, and enlists old colleague Frances Neagley to help carry out the mission.

Froelich asked Reacher’s assistance on this matter because of suspicious and threatening letters which had been sent to the Vice-President but instead intercepted by his protective team. Together, they attempt to find the ones responsible.

#7 Persuader (April 2003) [Amazon]

Walking along the street, Reacher sees Quinn, a man who should be dead. Reacher is a man who hates unfinished business.

Ten years ago, a key investigation went sour and Francis Xavier Quinn got away with murder.

Now a chance encounter outside Boston’s Symphony Hall brings it all back.

And Reacher sees his one last shot to finish what was started all those years ago.

#8 The Enemy (April 2004) [Amazon]

On New Year’s Day, 1990, in a North Carolina motel, a two-star general is found dead.

Within minutes, Reacher is ordered to contain the situation. But things soon escalate when Reacher discovers the general’s briefcase is missing and within hours, the general’s wife is killed.

Reacher soon finds himself embroiled in a complex game of tug of war between powerful men in the United States Army, and beyond.

#9 One Shot (April 2005) [Amazon]

In an innocent heartland city, five murders with six shots are done by an expert sniper. The police quickly identify and arrest a suspect, and build a slam-dunk case with iron-clad evidence.

But the accused man claims he’s innocent and says “Get Jack Reacher.”

Reacher himself sees the news report and turns up in the city. The defence is immensely relieved; but Reacher has come to bury the guy.

Shocked by the request of the accused, Reacher sets out to confirm for himself the absolute certainty of the man’s guilt, but comes up with more than he bargained for.

#10 The Hard Way (May 2006) [Amazon]

After witnessing an exchange of $1,000,000. Jack Reacher is hired by the underhanded director of a private military firm to rescue his wife and stepchild, who appear to have been kidnapped.

While Reacher uncovers clues that might lead to a rescue, he learns about the director’s dubious past which involves a murderous plot against two ex-associates.

He meets a beautiful ex-FBI agent converted to private investigator who assists him in the investigation to unveil the shocking truth, and ultimately engages in a showdown on a farm in Norfolk, England.

The novel is set primarily in New York City.

#11 Bad Luck and Trouble (April 2007) [Amazon]

Reacher is content with his choice of being a loner, a wanderer and being almost impossible to find. But someone makes a small anonymous deposit into his bank account, which triggers Reacher’s fixation for math and his investigative instincts.

Reacher finds out the deposit is a signal only the eight former members of his elite team of army investigators would know. Obsessed with math like Reacher, Frances Neagley locates him because of the brutal death of a one of their own. They race to reunite with the survivors of their old team and raise the living, bury the dead, and connect the dots in a mystery that grows more complex with more murders. With tortured murders and lives at stake of those Reacher considers family, his usual emotionless demeanour breaks and he says of the killers, “They are dead men walking.”

The team falls into their old roles and routines with ease, their motto still their sacred rule: You do not mess with the Special Investigators.

From Los Angeles to Las Vegas, Reacher gets his old investigations unit back together to get to the bottom of what’s going on.

#12 Nothing to Lose (March 2008) [Amazon]

Based in Colorado, travelling from the town of Hope to the town of Despair, it soon becomes clear that Reacher is an unwelcome visitor in a town with a lot of secrets to hide.

Reacher cannot resist the opportunity to explore these secrets further.

Especially the peculiar town owner who has employed the majority of the population to work within his recycling factory.

#13 Gone Tomorrow (April 2009) [Amazon]

Reacher takes the subway late at night, and routinely checks his fellow passengers. Four are okay, but the fifth is not. Checking against his mental list for suicide bombers, he comes to the conclusion that the fifth is one too.

He is puzzled with her choice of timing and place, as it is not crowded; on the contrary the subway was exceedingly empty. He reasons with her, but she shoots herself; thereby proving Reacher wrong when he concluded she was a bomber.

He is determined to discover why she killed herself and soon uncovers a massive conspiracy stretching from California to New York City to even Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation of that country.

#14 61 Hours (March 2010) [Amazon]

In South Dakota, a tourist bus crashes during a savage snow storm with Jack Reacher in it.

Jack gets caught up in a hunt for a murderer and the protection of a key witness.

Meanwhile, a link to Reacher’s past comes to his aid and brings a path to redemption.

#15 Worth Dying For (September 2010) [Amazon]

Reacher arrives late one night in a rural Nebraska town. In the town’s fading motel bar he overhears a drunk doctor’s refusal to attend a domestic abuse.

The victim of the abuse is married to the scion of the Duncan clan, which holds that part of Nebraska in its grip, keeping the population cowed and docile.

Reacher talks the doctor into doing the right thing, and ends up embroiled in a smuggling ring and an unsolved disappearance from twenty-five years prior.

#16 The Affair (September 2011) [Amazon]

March 1997. Six months before the events of Killing Floor. Jack Reacher is still in the army. And there’s big trouble in a small town in Mississippi, where a soldier’s girlfriend is found with her throat cut from ear to ear.

Local trouble? Or is the killer from nearby Fort Kelham, a giant base used by elite Army Rangers?

In 1997, Reacher’s orders are: go undercover, keep your distance, monitor the investigation. Eventually the army’s official investigation produces a cast-iron prime suspect—and so does Reacher’s undercover search. But Reacher’s answer is not the same as the army’s. If he keeps quiet, will he be able to live with himself? And if he speaks out, will the army be able to live with him?

#17 A Wanted Man (September 2012) [Amazon]

Four people in a car, hoping to make Chicago by morning. One man driving, eyes on the road. Another man next to him, telling stories that don’t add up. A woman in the back, silent and worried. And next to her, a huge man with a broken nose, hitching a ride east to Virginia.

An hour behind them, a man lies stabbed to death in an old pumping station. He was seen going in with two others, but he never came out. He has been executed, the knife work professional, the killers vanished. Within minutes, the police are notified.

Within hours, the FBI descends, laying claim to the victim without ever saying who he was or why he was there. All Reacher wanted was a ride to Virginia. All he did was stick out his thumb. But he soon discovers he has hitched more than a ride. He has tied himself to a massive conspiracy that makes him a threat—to both sides at once.

#18 Never Go Back (August 2013) [Amazon]

After an epic and interrupted journey all the way from the snows of South Dakota, former military cop Jack Reacher has finally made it to Virginia.

His destination: a sturdy stone building a short bus ride from Washington D.C., the headquarters of his old unit, the 110th MP.

It was the closest thing to a home he ever had.

Why? He wants to meet the new commanding officer, Major Susan Turner. He liked her voice on the phone. But the officer sitting behind his old desk isn’t a woman. Is Susan Turner dead? In Afghanistan? Or in a car wreck?

What Reacher doesn’t expect to hear is that Turner has just been fired from her command. Nor that he himself is in big trouble, accused of a sixteen-year-old homicide. And he certainly doesn’t expect to hear these words: ‘You’re back in the army, Major. And your ass is mine.’

Will he be sorry he went back? Or – will someone else?

#19 Personal (2014) [Amazon]

Someone has taken a long-range shot at the French president but failed to kill him. The suspected sniper has serious skills and is a hard man to find. Reacher tracked him down once and put him in jail. Now he’s asked to hunt him again, and put him away permanently.

Tracking the shooter will take Reacher from France to England after a killer with a treacherous vendetta.

He’ll need to uncover who did the hiring and what’s behind the assassination attempt before executing his orders.

#20 Make Me (September 2015) [Amazon]

“Why is this town called Mother’s Rest?” That’s all Reacher wants to know. But no one will tell him. It’s a tiny place hidden in a thousand square miles of wheat fields, with a railroad stop, and sullen and watchful people, and a worried woman named Michelle Chang, who mistakes him for someone else: her missing partner in a private investigation she thinks must have started small and then turned lethal.

Reacher has no particular place to go, and all the time in the world to get there, and there’s something about Chang . . . so he teams up with her and starts to ask around. He thinks: How bad can this thing be? But before long he’s plunged into a desperate race through LA, Chicago, Phoenix, and San Francisco, and through the hidden parts of the internet, up against thugs and assassins every step of the way—right back to where he started, in Mother’s Rest, where he must confront the worst nightmare he could imagine.

Walking away would have been easier. But as always, Reacher’s rule is: If you want me to stop, you’re going to have to make me.

#21. Night School (2016) [Amazon]

Prequel set when Reacher is 35.

In the morning, they gave Reacher a medal. And in the afternoon, they sent him back to school.

Night School takes Reacher back to his army days, but this time he’s not in uniform. With trusted sergeant Frances Neagley at his side, he must carry the fate of the world on his shoulders, in a wired, fiendishly clever new adventure that will make the cold sweat trickle down your spine.


No Middle Name [Amazon]

Jack ‘No Middle Name’ Reacher, lone wolf, knight errant, ex military cop, lover of women, scourge of the wicked and righter of wrongs, is the most iconic hero for our age. This is the first time all Lee Child’s shorter fiction featuring Jack Reacher has been collected into one volume. Read together, these twelve stories shed new light on Reacher’s past, illuminating how he grew up and developed into the wandering avenger who has captured the imagination of millions around the world.

  1. Second Son
  2. James Penney’s New Identity
  3. Guy Walks Into a Bar
  4. Deep Down
  5. High Heat
  6. Not a Drill
  7. Small Wars
  8. Everyone Talks
  9. Maybe They Have a Tradition
  10. No Room at the Motel
  11. The Picture of the Lonely Diner
  12. Too Much Time [new]

22. The Midnight Line [Amazon]

Jack Reacher takes an aimless stroll past a pawn shop in a small Midwestern town. In the window he sees a West Point class ring from 2005. It’s tiny. It’s a woman cadet’s graduation present to herself. Why would she give it up? Reacher’s a West Pointer too, and he knows what she went through to get it.

63 thoughts on “Jack Reacher Book Summaries

  1. I’m afflicted and in catch up ( but not too fast) mode.
    Listened to THE ENEMY while reading PERSONAL. Wow!
    How do you get him out of your head the rest of the time?

    • I’m almost there 🙂 I’ve read them out of order and discovered only two to catch up.
      And no, you can’t put him out of your head.
      Reacher is too sticky…

  2. Yep, an addict too. Shame they didn’t consider Gerard Butler ( 300-King Leonidas ) for the movie role of Jack. Your thoughts?

    • I agree. Actually, they could have used just about anybody but Tom Cruise! I usually like his movies but I was SO mad when I found out he was playing Jack Reacher. My family did not understand my frustration but Tom Cruise is just NOT Jack Reacher! I even refused to watch it for a while but I’m a Reacher addict

      • I just found this site. I’ve been a JR fan for years, but I’ve never had the luxury of reading them all in order. But I had the exact same response to Cruise being cast as Reacher. I remember when he was (mis-)cast as Lestat in Anne Rice’s “Interview with the Vampire.” Even though the author did a 180 after first angrily objecting to the casting, I knew there’d never be a film made of the second book (and the best, IMHO). And while there have been movies made of various later sequels, I was very sadly right.

        I don’t know which of the books was used in that movie (I’m terrible with names, and need to see the synopses to know if I’ve read them, with a few exceptions), but I will NEVER understand how a casting agent could read just a brief bit of ANY of the series and think, “Hmm, I think short, dark-haired, hyper Tom Cruise would be the perfect choice to play the 6’4″ tall and HUGE blond ex-MP major who seldom gets rattled or raises his voice.”

        • Easy, Tom Cruise bought the movie rights to all of the Reacher books and cast himself as a diminuitive Jack Reacher, there was no casting agent, just Cruise.

          • Further to my previous uninformed comment ……….. nice one Lee Child – You must have seen him coming? (as we say in the UK)

      • Just listen to Author Interview (recorded after ONE SHOT was published) and Lee Child (Jim Grant) said he would like to see Clint Eastwood play Jack if a movie was ever made. Wish he would have stuck with Clint!

  3. Hi Sheldon,

    I have read almost all the Reacher novels and am currently reading Without Fail. Joe Reacher is talked about a lot in this one. Is there a novel that actually covers his death or does that happen “off camera”. (You can reply in private if this is spoiler information)

    Thanks!

  4. Actually the perfect Reacher, in my mind, was Clint Walker (from the old TV show Cheyenne). Unfortunately he’s way too old now. But he should have been the gold standard – not Mr. Cruise.

  5. Tis sad that I must confess, I thought I was alone. Without humour I read into the night and then go early to the charity shops with my list of the ones not yet read. I never knew that other sad and bewildered people were out there drawn to the life of JR. I whisper the name in hushed tones and she who must be obeyed thinks I am doing things that I should not be doing. Now I know I am not sad, is there a secret societal meeting place that we can go and talk in private like an AA meeting?

  6. Well my addiction to the character and the novels, came full force when I acquired an RCMP Tahoe SUV at an auction. When asked what I was going to call ‘her’ , I quickly responded that the vehicle was a ‘he’ and his name was REACHER.

  7. Had the pleasure of being able to get the three novellas Second Son, High Heat, & Deep Down with Jack Reacher’s Rules on CD from my local library. If you get the opportunity, I highly recommend reading these novellas. All are set prior to the novels in the Jack Reacher series; two while Reacher is only a teen, and Deep Down while yet an Army Captain. High Heat is remarkable for Reacher not consuming any coffee; the title helps explain why. It is likely my favorite of the three as Child sets the story amid some real historical events with Reacher once again using his fascinating logical thoughts to limit possibilities and close the case(s).

    Jack Reacher’s Rules was a little disappointing. While filled with familiar excerpts from Jack Reacher novels, it is simply a listing of various guides that lead Reacher to act the way he does. It includes some of the typical Reacher humor in things that you won’t find Reacher saying or doing, i.e. packing his suitcase. Perhaps I was expecting something more personal that this. Interesting, but I probably won’t pick it up again.

    Now it’s time to hunt down some more Reacher short stories; Guy Walks into a Bar…, James Penney’s New Identity, and Everyone Talks. Only 3 more novels until I can join the 100% club; I’m trying to delay that and treasure each page of every story.

    • I believe Lee Child is releasing a volume with all the Jack Reacher short stories in it, check out Amazon.com or subscribe to the Lee Child website’s newsletter Leechild.com. They just sent me a downloadable link to the latest Lee Child interview.

  8. Started reading Jack Reacher in order. Which means I must wait since I receive them online. But, I do enjoy them. The start from some initial action that just grows and grows. I got my husband interested, also. I like the Clint Walker for Reacher. How about Lee Pace? He is 6’5″. And fairly muscular. And he is a current actor. So, I continue to wait. Plus, I am reading Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire series. Longmire is another 6’5″ character. What fun!

  9. I can’t think of this one Reacher book where He might have a kid. Someone approaches Reacher and asks him about this woman, but he can’t remember her name or anything else. He goes to where this woman lives and sees this girl who might be his daughter. Ringing any bells?

  10. Just found this discussion. I’m an absolute fan too & so agree with all the Tom Cruise comments! I got my first book in a charity shop & couldn’t put it down. His plots are fab, such good stories and initially I read them as I found them in shops. When I realised there was a chronology, I began reading them in order. Have just started on the short stories too & recommend these also.

  11. So I read some random Reacher books and the decided I wanted to read them in chrono order. So I read The Enemy and became confused as in it Reacher’s dad is dead; but I remember one of the random books Joe Reacher being in prison for treason and he and Jack Reacher were working together to stop a nuclear disaster, but their father was alive? I think in a couple of books he was alive , but if he was dead for 2 years in The Enemy in 1990 just not sure how it’s working out.

  12. I wanted Chris Hemsworth (Thor) for Reacher. He knows how to get across thoughtful and bigger-squish-you-like-a-bug

  13. When is the next Jack Reacher movie coming out? Can we hold a public poll and convince Tom Cruise that he should leave the part of Jack Reacher to another actor?

  14. Which of the novels is about Reacher avenging the death of his brother Joe? I want to read it again, but can’t remember the title.

  15. Just finished “Night School” and have a question about Frances Negley. I have enjoyed her character in many previous books always proving loyal and capable to Jack but just didn’t realize until his new book that she very smart and cunning and was a real bad ass. Was anyone else surprised? Can anyone tell me in which book she was first introduced. I thinking it was ” the enemy”. I need to re-read it.

    Go Frances!!! How about a spin-off Lee?

    • Yup Frances Neagley came across as a great partner to Reacher when I first met her. In “Without Fail” I think… And then she was back in “Bad Luck and Trouble”

  16. I’m rereading Gone Tomorrow. Spoiler stuff for others, but when Reacher goes back (double backs) to Lila’s Townhouse/apartment building , the ground floor space is a restaurant.
    Reacher looks around and sees a table that had frayed ropes and realizes that is where Lila Hoth killed/Gutted Peter Molina.

    My question, I thought Peter was out in SoCal playing football for USC? Did Lila somehow fly him out to New York City?

  17. It’s unanimous–Tom Cruise is NOT Jack Reacher! My choice, back in the day, would have been Steven Seagal; unfortunately, he’s too old now. Dolf Lundgren also a good choice if not for the foreign accent. Not Dwayne Johnson though, he just looks wrong.

  18. Re Reading The Affair, observation about Major Jack Reacher. While he was in the US Army, he would have had to have a closet full of uniforms and stuff as part of standard issue stuff of a Soldier. That must have drove him nuts. You have to keep stuff current with accoutrements and stuff.
    Now when he traveled to Fort Kelham in Mississippi, he just bought some cheap pink shirt and trousers and a Tooth Brush and looked civilian..
    Also as a US Army Major with no bills, he must have had a very large bank account. No vices, no car, no house, no girlfriend, no stereos and music, no cable no phone ect.ect. just food for thought. LOVE JACK REACHER!

  19. Hugh Jackman is the perfect Jack Reacher… though he’d need to beef up to play the movie “Tripwire” if it goes to film.

    • Hugh Jackman is only 6′ 2″, not tall enough. It’s a shame that Lee Child gave away the movie rights to Tom {i’m small}Cruise.

  20. Hugh Jackman is only 6′ 2″, not tall enough. It’s a shame that Lee Child gave away the movie rights to Tom {i’m small}Cruise.

  21. I’m on my second go around on reading Never Go Back, I’m always amazed how Reacher never gets rattled when being confronted with violence or people in authority giving him crap. So cool and collected he stays.
    Now I have to go look for the movie.

  22. Spoiler Alert:
    Bought the No Middle Name short story book. Awesome reading fills in alot of Reachers life.

    In the James Penny New Identity, body in trunk was Francis Xavier Quinn?
    Small Wars, who knew Joe Reacher was so cold blooded, and Reacher showed a different side of himself

    Everyone Talks, did Reacher get shot or not? Or was the hospital all in the conspiracy to hide Reacher? I feel like the female detective. Not knowing what happened.

  23. Just finishing this very addictive series and luckily found this site. I;m hoping someone can answer my question. It seems to me that Jack encounters his brother Joe’s girl friend in more than one story, she is a government agent (treasury or fbi). In one Molly dies in Jack’s arms in an airport baggage area but in another later story they meet and as I recall have a bit of an affair. Were there 2 or more ex-girlfriends ?

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