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The stories in the first section of this page feature Jack Reacher, a former or current military police officer, depending on when the story is set. If you’re curious about Reacher, you can get a sense of him through these stories. I liked them enough to order the first few Reacher novels.
Jack Reacher Short Stories
We’ll start with where you can get the most Reacher stories in one place: No Middle Name: The Complete Collected Jack Reacher Stories. It’s not really complete—stories have been published since and it also missed two (“Good and Valuable Consideration” and “Knowing You’re Alive”) from earlier. But it’s still a great collection. It includes the following seven stories:
“James Penny’s New Identity”
James Penny, a Vietnam vet, is called into the office at work. He gets laid off, along with many others. A fellow worker tells him the company informed the bank of the layoffs. Penny has payments to make on his house, car, and furniture. His desperation and fury impel him to action.
“James Penny’s New Identity” can be read in the preview of Thriller: Stories to Keep You Up at Night.
A new detective goes to the hospital to write up a report on a gunshot wound. The victim is sedated so she can’t talk to him. His passport says he’s Jack Reacher. The detective returns after her shift to get his story.
“Not a Drill”
Jack Reacher hitches a ride to a small town in the wilderness. Henry and Suzanne, a couple, love hiking and communing with nature. The other passenger, Helen, doesn’t like the woods; she plans on going back to the highway and looking for something more civilized. They stay at a nearby cabin. The next morning, several guests are milling about, looking tense and agitated.
“Maybe They Have a Tradition”
While on a flight to Amsterdam, Jack Reacher is diverted to England due to a storm. It is Christmas day. He gets a cab to Cambridge. The roads are bad so the cab driver decides to turn back. Reacher doesn’t like turning back; he wants to get out in the middle of nowhere.
“Guy Walks Into a Bar”
Jack Reacher, a former military cop, is in a bar in New York. There is a young woman, blonde and rich, who is clearly taken with the band’s guitar player. While scoping out the room, Reacher sees two suspicious guys.
“No Room at the Motel”
It’s snowing when Jack Reacher gets off a bus. Lots of travelers are stopping so he gets a motel room while he still can. He goes to a diner for a cheeseburger. It starts filling up. People are getting desperate for somewhere to stay.
“The Picture of the Lonely Diner”
When Jack Reacher gets off the R train he finds the stairways blocked with police tape. There doesn’t seem to be any problem. He wonders if there is a problem above. He goes to a stairway and cautiously makes his way up.
Also included in No Middle Name are five novellas and longer stories:
- Too Much Time: Reacher witnesses a bag-snatching and helps stop the thief. But is the crime as simple as it appears? (Almost half can be read in the Amazon preview)
- Second Son: 13-year-old Reacher deals with the death of his grandfather, a bully, an accusation against his older brother and something that could cost his father his military career.
- High Heat: 17-year-old Reacher intervenes when a man slaps a woman. But they both have connections that complicate things.
- Deep Down: Military Intelligence calls in Reacher to find out who’s leaking information to a foreign bidder.
- Small Wars: A promising young officer is shot dead and it looks like a professional job.
“The Christmas Scorpion”
It’s Christmas Eve and Jack Reacher is in California. His plans for some relaxation are put aside when a blizzard hits. Reacher takes refuge from the elements in a roadhouse bar. With him is the bartender, an older couple, and two of Britain’s Royal Military Police. The officers were escorting a VIP to a military base for a classified meeting, but they’ve become separated from their charge. To make matters worse, they’ve received a threat from an infamous assassin—the Christmas Scorpion.
“Good and Valuable Consideration” | Lee Child & Joseph Finder
Reacher is in a Boston bar to watch the Yankees and Red Sox. A fat man introduces himself as if he’s waiting for someone he’s never seen before. On the other side of the fat man sits Nick Heller. He notices all the same things Reacher does. The fat man seems worried.
“Good and Valuable Consideration” is in the thriller anthology FaceOff.
“Faking a Murderer” | Kathy Reichs and Lee Child
Temperance Brennan is addressing her peers at a gathering of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. At the end, she’s approached by two men. They’re Special Agents. A reporter for the Washington Post has been murdered, and Brennan’s fingerprints were found at the scene. Jack Reacher hears a news report about Brennan’s situation. He has a connection to the case.
“Faking a Murderer” is in the thriller anthology MatchUp.
• Other Lee Child Short Stories •
“The Bone-Headed League”
An FBI agent who thoroughly enjoys England is assigned to the embassy in London. The work is easy. He liaises with the police when Americans are involved in a crime. One day, he’s called to Baker Street by Scotland Yard. Some details of the case are obvious references to a story he’s familiar with. His enthusiasm for British things takes over.
This story can be read in the preview of The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime 10.
At a familiar dive bar, the narrator sees a guy he’s seen there before. They get talking about some trouble the guy is in. He tells a bit of his “work” history, which started with muling—transporting keys of coke and later selling for the Martinez Brothers. One day recently, he took a chance.
This story can be read in the preview of The Cocaine Chronicles. (43% in)
“The .50 Solution”
A rich man approaches an assassin about a job. He’s very particular about the type of weapon that has to be used.
This story can be read in the preview of Bloodlines: A Horse Racing Anthology.
A bodyguard in business for himself, who’s used to tough jobs, is interviewed by a rich young woman. She has experience with bodyguards, and knows exactly what she wants from one. They try to come to an arrangement.
This story is in First Thrills.
“The Hollywood I Remember”
A man remembers the corruption of Hollywood. He took care of people who were potential problems. He made a good living. On his eleventh job, he had some bad luck. It didn’t go as smoothly as usual. The cops were at his door the next morning, and he had evidence to dispose of.
This story is in Vengeance.
“The Greatest Trick of All”
A hit man always found a way—he was great at his job, but that’s over now. He learned from the best, including the greatest trick of all from a man named Ryland—getting paid twice for one job. Ryland had a long and problem-free career.
This story is in Greatest Hits: Original Stories of Hit Men, Hired Guns and Private Eyes.