Child’s latest Jack Reacher novel is more of the same—which is to say, great! Reacher is doing his thing, hitchhiking cross-country with a toothbrush in his pocket and a vague direction in his mind, when he is picked up on a cold winter night in the middle of nowheresville, Nebraska by three individuals who are just slightly off. Two men in the front seat are dressed in identical cheap blue shirts, and a very quiet, nervous, and heavily made-up woman in the backseat is wearing the same shirt. They are supposedly all co-workers but Reacher isn’t buying it. He’s especially wondering why they were willing to pick him up late at night on a lonely highway, given the fact that he is well over six feet, heavily muscled, poorly dressed and sporting a recently broken, bloody and very swollen nose. They ask him to drive soon after picking him up, and he takes them through two major police blockades and on into the night.
True to Child’s style, the next series of chapters are an intense, almost claustrophic close-up on Reacher driving endless empty miles while trying to suss out the story behind the passengers in the car, but what he doesn’t know –yet — is that the two men have just executed someone and taken the woman as hostage. The deeper he gets, the messier it gets, and even when he manages to finally escape their clutches, he remains the target of a law enforcement manhunt along with the others. Multiple federal agencies get involved, more bodies turn up, people go missing, bad guys multiply, conspiracies surface, and once again, we get an explosive climax that has Reacher, a former military cop, saving the day against ridiculous odds.
Child somehow manages to make it work, time and again, with descriptions and dialogue as spare and no-nonsense, but also as effective and compelling, as the character of Reacher himself. We never do find out why Reacher’s nose was broken, and we get the feeling that it’s not his first time, but it doesn’t seem to interfere with his heroics. I often wonder why Child has made Reacher so anti-social, and it’s not like earlier novels haven’t filled in some of the history on this fascinating character, but I suspect that Reacher would lose his appeal if we pried too closely into his backstory. So enjoy it for what it is, and wait anxiously, like me, for Child’s next in the series.