The idea behind this plot is so obvious I’m surprised Child never did it before. Jack Reacher is a drifter. He’s a fighting machine and an ex military cop, but he’s also a drifter. When he hitchhikes his way into a car filled with two wanted fugitives and their captive he gets tossed into a book full of mysteries, intrigues, mayhem, terrorist cells and government coverups.
This is Lee Child at his best. Jack Reacher is like a giant thug version of Sherlock Holmes. He notices everything. He analyzes everything and he figures everything out. All while punching all the bad guys into submission.
The usual flaws remain. Child seems to have only a very basic understanding of what happens in small town America and he seems to want to repeat that in every book. I get the idea he saw a small town once and decided to throw it into every one of his stories. I don’t know what his fascination with small American towns is but he seems to think that the people who live there are idiots who have no recourse for the law when things go bad.
Child’s idea of giving his character some flaws is that Reacher is a lousy driver — meaning he’s about as good as the next guy but maybe not the best in a car chase. Everything else, he knows it and is awesome. He knows more facts than Wikipedia. He understands people and how they are going to think almost instantly. He obsesses about numbers at an almost autistic level and he charms every person he meets (especially law enforcement) into trusting him by being gruff and honest until they give in and let him tell them what to do.
The other flaw is that Reacher figures everything out. Sometimes he guesses wildly. Sometimes he has clues. He’s never wrong.
If you can accept those three things then this is a fun action movie of a novel. There are tense moments. There are real mysteries. There’s even a final climactic take-down of the bad guys where Reacher shows that he’s basically an army all by himself.
Anybody who has read a Lee Child novel knew this already.
There’s little else to say about this book. If you want something that will let you just go with the action from page one and pull you through to the end, this is about as good as it gets. If you want something deep that explores human nature or shows you flawed but likable characters — look somewhere else.