Tripwire (novel)

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Tripwire book.jpg
1999 Hardcover edition
Author Lee Child
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series Jack Reacher
Genre Thriller novel
Publisher Bantam (UK), Putnam (US)
Publication date
UK: 15 April 1999 [1]
US: 28 June 1999 [2]
Media type Print (Hardcover, Paperback)
Pages 343 pp
ISBN 978-0-593-04393-6 [1]
OCLC 39763530
Preceded by Die Trying
Followed by Running Blind

Tripwire is the third book in the Jack Reacher series written by Lee Child. It was published in 1999 by Putnam in America and Bantam in the United Kingdom. It is written in the third person.

Plot summary[edit]

The prologue describes Victor Truman "Hook" Hobie's carefully planned escape route in the event of somebody discovering his really big, well-guarded secret. His "early-warning system" consists of geographically-located "tripwires". The first tripwire is eleven thousand miles from home and the second tripwire is six thousand miles out. His response to their activation would be to tie up loose ends, cash in, transfer assets and flee the country. Over 30 years of quiet success have made him feel somewhat secure. But then the two tripwire alerts arrive on the same day.

The main story begins with Jack Reacher working two jobs in Key West and bumping into a private detective who happens to be searching for Jack. Costello is working for a client named Mrs. Jacob, a name Reacher does not recognise. Later on, whilst Reacher is working his night job as a bouncer in a strip club, two very suspicious-looking men also make inquiries about his location. Reacher attempts to follow them but instead finds Costello murdered on the sidewalk. Jack then flies to New York to find out why Costello was looking for Reacher and why he was killed for it.

Reacher arrives in New York searching for information on Costello and Mrs. Jacob and discovers that the dead detective's office has already been searched. Reacher gets the contact information for Mrs. Jacob and arrives in the midst of a funeral for his old mentor and friend, Leon Garber. His daughter, Jodie Garber-Jacob is revealed to be the mysterious, divorced Mrs. Jacob.

Reacher and Jodie follow Costello's trail, uncovering information on her father's last project, an investigation for the elderly Hobie parents on their missing-in-action (MIA) military son, Victor Truman Hobie. The poor and elderly parents had given their life savings to a con man and gun runner named Rutter, who poses as a fake military liaison to families of MIA soldiers. All this mucking around instigates a response from Hobie. Reacher realises he has to protect Jodie from Costello's killers as well as other unknown hostiles. Reacher forces Rutter to refund the Hobies' money. The investigation takes them to the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, MO and to the military Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii, a special facility that handles forensic remains of soldiers. They discover Hobie volunteered for the Vietnam War and was a skilled pilot of a helicopter that went down. However, the truth that Hook Hobie is not who he says he is comes out, and it turns out that Hobie was actually a soldier named Carl Allen who stole Victor Hobie's identity after he died in the crash. The helicopter had been sent with a crew to arrest Allen for fragging his commanding officer. Allen swapped dogtags with Hobie's body to sow confusion during his escape of the burning helicopter wreckage. The crash and escape leave him with horrible burns on half his face and an arm sliced in half below the elbow. His prosthesis, a metal hook, is the basis for his new nickname.

During and after the war, Allen gathered a fortune arranging illegal deals and moneylending, first as a street lender then as a corporate "last-resort" lender for companies financially rejected by banks, a "high-end loan shark". His business method is the same, however, whether in a dark alley or a corporate boardroom, terrorising clients with torture and killing of family members if they default. The reason Allen didn't liquidate and run when his tripwires were triggered is because he has been plotting a takeover of a multimillion-dollar company owned by Chester and Marilyn Stone. Hobie kidnaps and tortures them to speed up the process, blackmailing them to sign over all the shares.

Jodie is the financial attorney assigned to handle the Stone company transaction and ends up captured with Chester and Marilyn. Allen forces Jodie to call Reacher and summon him to Allen's offices. In the ensuing bloody mayhem Reacher sustains a bullet wound to the chest that should have killed him. A doctor explains that, due to the arduous physical labour he has done digging pools along with a high-protein diet, his pectoral muscle was so thick the bullet did not make it past his rib cage. Reacher is then visited (while convalescing) by the real Victor Hobie's parents to thank him for restoring their son's good name.


The bullet wound that Reacher received is mentioned a few times in other Lee Child novels. Most of the women that Reacher sleeps with notice the "crater" and usually place their pinkie there while asking how it happened. In One Shot Reacher sums up the story by saying it was a wound received by a "Mad Man" and that most women are curious about it except for the one who he was saving at the time.


Lee Child began writing Tripwire in spring 1997.[3] The book was published on 15 June 1999 in the United Kingdom[1] and the American publication followed on 28 June of the same year.[2]

The reasoning for the opening of the book taking place in Key West was a vacation Child spent there in 1996.[3]

The provisional title for Tripwire was The Hook, but that name was scrapped as Putnam believed the title was not "punchy" enough.[4] Putnam also believed The Hook would remind people too much of Peter Pan.[5]


Tripwire received positive reviews from critics, with The Orlando Sentinel calling it "a thriller good to the last drop" and The Arizona Daily Star saying "Lee Child can write. [...] Child grabs hold with the first page and won't let go until the finish. This is pulse-pounding suspense, and Child hardly misses a beat." The book was also praised by fellow authors, with Michael Connelly saying "It's a tightly-drawn and swift thriller that gives new meaning to what a page-turner should be." Stephen White also commented, calling Tripwire a "stylish thriller."[6]


  1. ^ a b c "UK Tripwire information page on Fantastic Fiction". Fantastic Fiction. Retrieved 11 July 2009. 
  2. ^ a b "US Tripwire information page on Fantastic Fiction". Fantastic Fiction. Retrieved 11 July 2009. 
  3. ^ a b "Lee Child Interview with Books 'n Bytes". Books 'n Bytes. Retrieved 25 May 2009. 
  4. ^ "Lee Child Interview with Partners & Crime Mystery Booksellers". Partners & Crime Mystery Booksellers. Retrieved 25 May 2009. 
  5. ^ ""Inside Story" page on Lee Child's official website.". Lee Child Official Website. Retrieved 25 May 2009. 
  6. ^ "Tripwire Information page on Lee Child's official website.". Lee Child Official Website. Retrieved 25 May 2009. 

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