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Unknown Man #89 (Jack Ryan #3)

3.79  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,353 Ratings  ·  84 Reviews
Detroit process server Jack Ryan has a reputation for being the best in the business at finding people who don't want to be found. Now he's looking for a missing stockholder known only as "Unknown Man No. 89." But his missing man isn't "unknown" to everyone: a pretty blonde hates his guts and a very nasty dude named Royal wants him dead in the worst way. Which is very unfo ...more
Paperback, 341 pages
Published June 4th 2002 by HarperTorch (first published 1977)
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Detective Fiction
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Books with Witty Banter/Dialogue
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,077)
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(This is a blog post I did that covers the two Leonard books featuring Jack Ryan.)

One of my favorite aspects about Elmore Leonard’s writing was that by shifting perspectives constantly he had the ability to make you sympathize with a character so that the hero of the story might not be who you thought it was at the beginning of a book. Fans of television’s Justified who pick up Pronto for the first time will probably be confused as to why the first half of the book makes Raylan Givens look like
Aug 09, 2011 Aaron rated it really liked it
Brilliant descriptions of (interestingly enough) morgues and AA meetings - some of Leonard's best writing.

In stock-Leonard hilarious style, he describes two thieves' ransacking of a room (to steal some papers) as follows:

"They used Mr. Perez's black Samsonite two-suiter. Virgil cleared off the desk, taking loose papers, folders, and notebooks, scratchpads, and everything in the desk, including hotel stationary and the room-service menu, and dropped everything in the suitcase open on the floor
Mar 03, 2015 Rob rated it really liked it
Like Ian Rankin (whose Black & Blue I recently reviewed and which, okay, was more teacher education Common Core navel-gazing than actual review), I’ve read a lot of Elmore Leonard recently without actually penning a full review. This is the fifth of his books I’ve read since September (and the tenth overall), and while I’ve loved each and every one of them, this is the first one I’ve engaged with on an emotional level. That immediately elevates it to the upper echelon of Leonard’s not-incons ...more
Apr 12, 2011 Jake rated it liked it
Between 3-4 stars. I love Elmore Leonard but he has this frustrating habit of introducing one or two characters and/or one or two plot points too many. Thus, a neat thriller like this one becomes too muddled in the middle and while the end shakes out in an exciting manner, it makes it difficult to appreciate. I liked this book, wanted to really like it but, much like some of his works, it tries to do too much.
Paul Wilner
Dec 10, 2007 Paul Wilner rated it it was amazing
I think this is his best, though with him, it's hard to tell. He does it without letting you see him sweat.
Mar 23, 2011 Matt rated it it was amazing
Might be the best of Leonard's 70s Detroit novels.
Nov 21, 2013 Jamie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There’s a part in the middle of the book about alcoholics and AA and it’s too real, I’ve got to think, for it to be anything other than personal. It’s a beautiful part. It’s one of the best in the book. I think it’s why Elmore can do what he does like nobody else: so many parts of it are grounded in real life.
See, there was the hard way to do things and there was the easy way. The hard way looked good at the time; in fact, it looked like the only way. But it upset your stomach and could break yo
Charlie Wade
Jan 21, 2016 Charlie Wade rated it it was amazing
Jack Ryan is a Detroit process server who gets offered a new type of job: tracking someone who is unaware they hold stock worth a lot of money.

Problem is, the unknown man is not that great a person and is wanted by other people who get to him first. Add in a wife, who naturally Jack falls for, and we're set up for a real noir treat. I especially liked the bumbling hoods who broke into the hotel room.
Jul 10, 2014 Philip rated it liked it
I'm not as much of an Elmore Leonard worshipper as some. I definitely prefer his Detroit books to his later, cutesier stuff, though. (I haven't read any of his very late novels, when he seemed to be trying out exotic locales and time periods just to stretch himself.) This is a pretty solid novel from the late 70s, not as dark as, say, 52 Pick-Up, and fairly linear/minimalist in its plotting. There are twists, but they make sense, and the tone is consistent throughout, with no wacky digressions o ...more
Victor Gibson
It could that there's no such thing as a bad Elmore Leonard book, but I'm less sure about Unknown Man 89 than I have been about some of his other wonderful writings. Maybe Detroit does not suit his narrative quite as well as the deep south, or California. But of course it's still an easy read, and was ideal for entertaining me on a transatlantic flight. It is 341 pages long. I heard the author on the radio say that all his book made 300 pages, and if one was not quite long enough they took a cou ...more
Doug Noakes
May 24, 2015 Doug Noakes rated it really liked it
A 1970's novel from Elmore Leonard put his protagonist on familiar ground in the Detroit underworld. Jake Ryan is a easy-going process server who tries to track down a unstable criminal named Ray Leery for a court date, only to find him already in the morgue. There is also a certain Mr. Perez, a shady lawyer from New Orleans, who wants to find the ex-Mrs. Leery to get his finders fee on some valuable stocks Leery's father had set aside for his son, and forgotten decades earlier. Ryan's task is t ...more
Yong Lee
Dec 14, 2014 Yong Lee rated it liked it
A fast paced crime story, that is smooth like a straight up vodka martini.
Sep 10, 2014 Tony rated it really liked it
UNKNOWN MAN NO. 89. (1977). Elmore Leonard. ****.
This is basically a love story wrapped around by a criminal caper. Our protagonist is Jack C. Ryan. Ryan is in the business of serving warrants and summons. He makes a pretty good living – remembering that this is set in 1976 or so – by working for a variety of lawyers and the Detroit criminal courts. He is approached by a man, Mr. Perez, who wants Ryan to find a man for him. He claims that he has something of this man’s that the man doesn’t know
Patrick O'Neil
Sadly, I just lost interest at page 212...
Feb 08, 2015 Jeff rated it liked it
Not having read Leonard novels before, I was browsing the paperbacks and the library and saw such a collection I thought I would pick one up, and I'm glad I did. I was familiar with Leonard's work in the movies - Be Cool, Get Shorty, and Out of Sight - so I wasn't sure how good his writing was. I did enjoy this book, though the first thing that threw me off was when the book was written. It felt at times like it was from 2014, others from the early 1980's, which I think was the publication date. ...more
Aug 04, 2016 Downward rated it liked it
a weird leonard novel that, like a lot of his stuff, blurs the line between who exactly the bad guy is by presenting everything in a gray area. i mean, we are locked in on jack ryan and rooting for him, but the world that surrounds him is immoral and life doesnt seem to mean much. this book is a peculiarity in that halfway through it takes a hard turn away from being a crime novel and starts to become an AA novel, with its morality tied up in the characters and their struggles with addiction, al ...more
Rick McNeely
Nov 06, 2008 Rick McNeely rated it it was amazing
One of Elmore Leonard's best. Great "trashy detective fiction," which is one of my favorite genres. A perfect snapshot of Detroit during the Superfly Seventies.
Don Massenzio
Nov 13, 2014 Don Massenzio rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This crime novel shows further development in Leonard's writing style. This book revives one of his earlier characters from The Big Bounce, Jack Ryan, as a Detroit-based process server that searches for a man that has property coming to him that he is unaware of. The story has many twists and turns and ends up with a clever Ryan coming out ahead in the end. I was struck by a new technique that had not appeared in any earlier Leonard novels. He had two simultaneous threads going in the story and ...more
Ronald Koltnow
Jun 25, 2015 Ronald Koltnow rated it liked it
I started reading Elmore Leonard with LA BRAVA is the mid '80s. Now I'm going back and reading the earlier novels. UNKNOWN MAN #89 starts off well, with a rootless man finding his metier as a process server. Jack Ryan is hired to find a man who turns out to be a vicious psycho. Enter a neanderthal from New Orleans and a couple of Detroit street hustlers, and you have the makings of classic Dutch. However, the plot meanders yet remains stagnant, it relies on odd coincidences, and ultimately loses ...more
Apr 23, 2014 Stacey rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, read-in-2014
My first Elmore Leonard novel, and probably not my last. A fast-paced suspense set in 1970s Detroit, it made for light, fun, engaging reading. Jack Ryan is a process server and recovering alcoholic who sets out to find a missing person - Robert Leary, Jr., a released convict who doesn't know he has inherited some big money. Along the way, Ryan gets tangled up with an ex-con out for revenge, a villainous mastermind and his brutish sidekick, and the beautiful, troubled wife of Robert Leary. Full o ...more
Michael Naughton
Feb 09, 2014 Michael Naughton rated it it was amazing
Thanks to Hollywood, we all know Mr. Majestyk, 52 Pickup, Get Shorty, Be Cool, KillShot, etc., but Unknown Man # 89, published in 1977 after Swag, is an unknown gem that'll keep you flipping pages at night. Leonard weaves an original story of Jack Ryan, a Detroit process server, who is hired to find Bobby Lear by a con man named Mr. Perez. The con deals with unclaimed stocks and Ryan will hit pay dirt if he can just locate him for Mr. Perez. Easy enough right..? It's what Ryan does for a living. ...more
Feb 19, 2016 Luca rated it really liked it
So you think this one is gonna have a mystery in it, but then the mystery is resolved at around page 30 or so, and the rest of the book is just bad dudes trying to screw each other over as usual.

I noticed Leonard used a lot of indirect speech in this one, which is a really fun way to keep the pacing up and switch up the page layout from being filled with dialogue all the time.

Anyway, THE BIG BOUNCE's Jack Ryan is back as a protagonist in this one, but he's changed so much as to not really matte
Mar 28, 2015 Jesse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 29, 2012 wally rated it really liked it
Shelves: leonard
#11 or 12 from leonard for one dedicated "for peter"

there's a quote early on:

a prompt man is a lonely man.
---andrew donahue

maybe he's related to phil, i dunno.

story begins:

a friend of ryan's said to him one time, "yeah, but at least you don't take any shit from anybody."

ryan said to his friend, "i don't know, the way things've been going, maybe it's about time i started taking some."

this had been a few years ago. ryan remembered it as finally waking up, deciding to get off h
Dec 19, 2008 John rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: toughnecks w/ a touch of the marshmallow
Recommended to John by: another writer & Leonard buff
Got to give it up for the E man, Ehhl-moh Leonard, in particular for these nifty titles. Wouldn't you know it, one of his most provocative -- unknown? & as many as 89? -- draws a reader into one of his very best, my favorite of those I've been through, an early effort (first pub. 1977) more vital & layered. UNKNOWN is a "crime novel" I suppose, though a more specific designation would be the lowlife novel, one in which our moral core is Jack Ryan (an unfortunate name, but Leonard got the ...more
Tom Marcinko
Dec 09, 2012 Tom Marcinko rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“In this work,” Ryan told his friend, “you can be a boy scout, a humanitarian, you can be an ass chaser, there’s plenty of that. I mean, broads, ones that’re lonely or grateful. You can lean on people, stick it to them if you get a kick out of that. Christ, like a guy I know, he’s in the collection business now, Jay Walt. He likes to torture people, get them to squirm or whimper. You can do that. Or you can wish them luck and not horse them around any. We’re all making the same trip, right? Tryi ...more
Dennis Billuni
Oct 31, 2015 Dennis Billuni rated it it was amazing
As usual, Elmore Leonard treats the reader to a fast-moving crime-in-Detroit novel. The main character, Jack Ryan (no relation to Tom Clancy’s character), a process server with no real direction for his life, finds himself falling for an alcoholic widow/heiress beset by vicious con men. His relationship with Lee turns him into something of a knight errant on a mission to save the damsel in distress (and her money) by the bad guys who would also like to see Jack dead. Crackling Elmore Leonard dia ...more
Martin Stanley
Jul 23, 2016 Martin Stanley rated it it was amazing
One of Leonard's best. He takes his time with the characters. Let's them interact and change and do stupid things and then, finally, he gets on with the plot and tightens the noose. Jack Ryan plays a game of cat-and-mouse with an oily and smooth financial consultant, who's also a murderer and extortionist, over a fortune in shares. It's coolly put together in Leonard's tight, spare prose and the dialogue is superb. A pleasure of a read.
Heidi Spiessl
Feb 05, 2016 Heidi Spiessl rated it liked it
This was really good. The characters were nicely developed, the plot interesting enough to keep reading. The reason for 3 stars is that the end kinda just dropped off and it felt like the situation with Mr. Perez just dissolved. I had expected more of a conclusion. Anyway, besides that, it was a great book.
Sep 19, 2008 Stephen rated it it was amazing
When you join the military you only get to bring a few things with you to basic training (toothbrush, razor..etc). I brought this book. I had started reading it during the summer after high school and simply couldn't let going into the Navy stop me from reading it.

This really was one of the first books I chose to read on my own as a young adult. I had read a few other worthwhile things like 'Invisible Man' in high school, but those were still really for school projects, if you know what I mean.
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Elmore John Leonard lived in Dallas, Oklahoma City and Memphis before settling in Detroit in 1935. After serving in the navy, he studied English literature at the University of Detroit where he entered a short story competition. His earliest published novels in the 1950s were westerns, but Leonard went on to specialize in crime fiction and suspense thrillers, many of which have been adapted into m ...more
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Other Books in the Series

Jack Ryan (2 books)
  • The Big Bounce (Jack Ryan, #1)

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“There’s something happening here, I know it. It’s right in front of my face, but I just can’t see it.” 6 likes
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