The stories in this collection feel, at times, almost like fan fiction—especially the one in which a teenage Reacher finds himself wandering through New York City on the night of the 1977 blackout and, before dawn, helps a cop nail a drug kingpin, canoodles with a Sarah Lawrence coed, and delivers the tip that helps catch Son of Sam. But still, there’s a kick in seeing the character so fully formed from such a young age in this story and the one in which he's an Army brat dealing with bullies at a new posting. And the short form is refreshing after the misfire of Child's last novel, in which the violence became unpleasant and the tone curdled. No such problem here. And it’s encouraging that the novella 'Too Much Time,' which leads into the next Reacher novel, feels like a return to form. These are tasty appetizers that will hopefully lead to a satisfying entree.
The downside is there’s no time to build up the tension. But the up is that we are promised a whistle-stop insight into how Reacher was formed from the tough-kid to the tough-guy. This collection of short stories and novellas wouldn’t be a bad place to start for Reacher virgins ... There are a couple I yawned through. In 'Second Son' in which Reacher, 13, beats up the bigger smelly kid and solves cases that stump the military police, he is verging on the insufferable ... The new novel opening had me hooked. Reacher sticks to his rules and jumps on the first bus out of town. As usual he stops on a whim, this time when he sees a ring in a pawn shop. So far, so predictable. And I’m glad it is so.