The Midnight Line

Author: Lee Child

Publishing Date: 2017

Setting: The American Great Plains

Narrative Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Themes: Military Honor, Addiction, Gray Morality

Series Information: Book 22 (in publishing order) of the Jack Reacher series. It should be noted that the novels have limited cross-over and can be read in any order.

Subjective Length: A day or two

Score: A work of entertainment value The Jack Reacher series has become a mainstay of realistic adventure fiction. If you’ve enjoyed any of the previous entries in the series, The Midnight Line will not disappoint.

Controversial Themes

Addiction: This book handles the subject of addiction with surprising tact for a series built on the appeal of violence and action. It takes care to highlight the role that once-prevalent prescriptions have played in the current addiction epidemic, and seeks to shed light on the struggle of addicts.

Sexual Content: There are a few attempts at seduction by a married woman; as well as a sex scene that neither veers into completely obscure euphemism, nor graphic description. There is also a scene in which a woman’s skirt rides up while she is being restrained.

Violence: The Jack Reacher series has always contained the heavy use of violence to drive the plot. This particular entry in the series has a little less than some of the others, but it is still noticeable.


The story opens with Reacher thinking back about the woman he left behind at the last town. He steps off of a bus for a stretch and spots a West Point graduate ring in a pawnshop window. Reacher examines the ring, buys it, and sets himself the goal of finding the original owner. The novel is intentionally vague about his motives, as Reacher himself expresses a little uncertainty as to what’s calling him to get involved in this situation. It seems to be a mix of military honor, curiosity, a touch of what might be chivalry (he quickly identifies the ring as belonging to a woman), and perhaps projected guilt or regret from walking away from another woman only a day or so before.

His quest sends him back up the supply chain, from seller to seller, as he tracks down the woman in hard enough straits to sell something symbolic of so much hard work and effort.

This novel adds more likable and memorable side characters than many previous entries in the series; and really sold the cast well. The ending was less climactic than some others by the same author, but that seemed to underscore the quiet sadness in the themes of drug addiction. There is no grand showdown with two unstoppable juggernauts squaring off in battle; and the threat is not in powerful enemies, but in stealthy and unknown enemies.

There’s also a good moment of seeing a character like Reacher –someone of quick decisions and solid resolve– faced with a situation more nuanced than “find bad guy, kill bad guy”. There are moral dilemmas presented here that enrich the experience.

Overall, not required reading, but a solid read. If anything in the “lone tough guy” genre piques your interest, then The Midnight Line will be a page-turner far too late into the night.

Happy reading, all.