No Middle Name
by Lee Child
Bantam Press

“Sixty seconds in a minute, sixty minutes in an hour, twenty four hours in a day, seven days in a week, fifty two weeks in a year.” So begins Too Much Time, one of 12 Jack Reacher short stories collected in one book, No Middle Name. The sentence is classic Reacher and classic Lee Child – at once banal and memorable, everyday and just a little more intense than that. Reacher continues by calculating how many crimes are committed in America in a single span of 30 million seconds. His guess is 10 million. I wish he’d hypothesised how many Jack Reacher books are bought in the same period. My guess is 23 billion.

Reacher’s famously gargantuan body notwithstanding (even though he’s played by the diminutive Tom Cruise on screen), the short story seems to be the perfect form for the terse superhero. Hardcore Reacher fans may well already have read these insights into Reacher’s adolescence (Second Son) and his youthful part in the arrest of the infamous Son of Sam killer (High Heat), but that doesn’t eradicate their zesty verve. Too Much Time, the one new tale on show, alone is nearly worth the price of purchase. “Who even knows where you are?” Reacher is asked at one point. “I do,” he replies. “That’s enough.” And so it is.