Lee Child’s Jack Reacher takes road toward more trouble

Lee Child’s blockbuster series featuring Jack Reacher, the wandering former Army MP, continues with “A Wanted Man.” Fans of this series will expect Reacher to be on the road again — and, as always, trouble will find him.

In “Worth Dying For” Reacher broke up a Midwestern ring of pedophiles. As “A Wanted Man” opens Reacher is hitchhiking in Nebraska. He has developed a romantic interest in a woman who helped him solve a case. She is in Virginia. They have had phone conversations — he has never met her. Assume he’s headed her way.

He’s having a tough time getting rides. His appearance isn’t helping. Reacher has a broken nose. He decides to remove the duct tape that is holding his nose in place. He hopes to improve his luck.

Reacher looks hideous but “he kept the smile on his face. He remained optimistic. And then finally, after a total of 93 minutes on the ramp, a car stopped for him.” Of course this marks the prelude to Reacher’s next battle with doom.

In the darkness Reacher sees that the Chevrolet contains three occupants, two men in front and a woman in the back. He climbs inside and begins to assess these strangers. There’s something odd about them. “Each of them had on black pants and a blue denim shirt. The shirts looked cheap and new, still creased from the wrapper.”

Reacher analyzes people and situations. He’s always thinking, calculating his next move. As he is trying to figure out who these people are, he is surprised when one of the men asks Reacher if he would be willing to drive their car.

Reacher agrees. He doesn’t mention that he is a mediocre driver. In fact, he doesn’t even have a driver’s license. He has no luggage, no license, a severe facial injury, an expired passport, a toothbrush and a wad of cash. That’s our Reacher.

They are cruising down the interstate when they see flashing lights ahead, a police roadblock. Their car is inspected and they are cleared to proceed. While Reacher drives the men doze. Then he notices that the woman in the back seat is repeatedly blinking at him in the rear-view mirror. Could this be some sort of coded message that she is trying to express to him?

I cannot say much more about this novel without spoiling it. Suffice it to say that Child has cooked up another sinuous, complicated tale. It mostly unfolds on highways in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas.

Reacher spends a lot of time with Julia Sorenson, a beautiful blonde FBI agent from Omaha. Are these romantic sparks that are flying between them? “A Wanted Man” is a thriller and an espionage novel. We have the FBI, the CIA, a Syrian terrorist organization, Cold War military relics and Jack Reacher trying to figure it all out.

These books can be extremely violent. Reacher is one lethal creature. “A Wanted Man” is another classic in this series. Child’s protagonist is a mysterious avenger with a dark sense of humor. At one point Julia asks him: “Where do you get your money?” Reacher provides some terse explanation then finally admits the truth: “I steal from bad guys.”

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