I would have loved to tell you a little about the latest Lee Child novel, Make Me, but it has proven so popular I have yet to read it. Since I have to wait my turn for the print edition, I turned to our eBook collection to see if I could get it there.

Alas that hold list is even longer but I did discover some new Reacher material in the form of novellas. The digital format has made it easier and more profitable to publish novellas. At around 100 pages it’s a great way for the author to flesh out the character or give backstory.

Right now you’ll find 5 Lee Child novellas and most feature the character at a much younger age. In Second Son Jack Reacher is 13 years old and his family is alive and well. His dad, Captain Stan Reacher, has just been transferred to a Marine base in Okinawa. The whole family, his wife Josephine and sons Joe and Reacher, soon follow.

The story covers just the first few days in their new surroundings but you get a glimpse of what life was like for Reacher (even at 13 he was just Reacher) living on military bases. His size makes him a target. But, as in the novels, the bullies are no match for his analytical mind and powers of observation.

One steamy New York City night is the setting for High Heat. It’s the summer before his 17th birthday and Reacher is on his way to see Joe at West Point, after a stop in the Big Apple. The Yankees aren’t in town so Reacher goes in search of music and maybe a coed willing to spend some time with him.

The heat has driven most people inside so he is the only one to see Jill Hemingway being slapped. Just like his size and mind, his sense of justice was finely honed at a young age so he doesn’t hesitate to intervene.

The slapper is a mobster, Jill is a suspended FBI agent and Reacher just made the wrong guy mad. As in the first novella historical events play into the story. His mother is worried about the Son of Sam killer and the 1977 blackout hits at a most opportune moment. And he did find a pretty coed willing to spend some time with him.

In Deep Down Reacher is well into his career as a MP. He is called to Washington D.C. to do some undercover work for the Pentagon. A new sniper rifle is being discussed in a pre-committee committee meeting. Congressional staffers, 4 liaison officers and 2 snipers form the committee. One of them is feeding the specs being discussed to a foreign manufacturer.

It is Reacher’s job to find which liaison officer is sending the specs overseas. This is a really quick read, almost more of a short story than a novella. With a few twists added in it could have been turned into a novel. Instead the tension builds to a quick resolution then it ends.

I’m waiting to read the other 2 novellas but I can tell you Small Wars has Reacher at Fort Smith investigating the death of an officer. He gets help from his brother Joe and Sergeant Neagley.

Not a Drill is the only novella that takes place in the time frame of most of the novels, post-military. Reacher has hitched a ride with some young Canadians on their way to Maine. Leaving him in town the Canadians set off to hike through the wilderness. When the trail they take is closed and the military police show up, trouble has once again found Reacher.

The next time you are stuck waiting for the new title in a favorite series try reading the novellas. Since they are such quick reads even a print lover like me didn’t mind reading the digital version.

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