In Jack Reacher’s whiz-bang latest (Bad Luck and Trouble, 2007, etc.), small-town cops bust him for vagrancy—big mistake!
Despair, Colo.: population 2,692, and none of them with the sense they were born with. Because Reacher warned them, nobody can say he didn’t. There he was, just passing through, seated harmlessly at the restaurant table, wanting only a cup of coffee, when the four deputies, “each a useful size,” appeared in the doorway, clearly intent on seeing the back of him. Says Reacher to the restaurant’s surly proprietor, “ ‘If I get a cup of coffee I’ll walk out of here. If I don’t get a cup of coffee, these guys can try to throw me out, and you’ll spend the rest of the day cleaning blood off the floor…’ ” Broken bones ensue—none of them Reacher’s—but when a riot gun is added to the argument, Reacher allows himself to be arrested. The fact is his curiosity—ever a major component in the Reacher persona—requires that he stick around until he uncovers the something he suspects is rotten in Despair. Enter the lady deputy sheriff from Hope, the tiny town that borders Despair. Hope, of course, is as attractive as Despair is forbidding. Ditto Deputy Vaughan, who provides another compelling reason for Reacher to bide a bit. They join forces in an investigation that takes a series of twisty turns involving, among others, a buck-chasing religious zealot and some vexatious conspirators in Pentagon corridors of power. Answers garnered, curiosity slaked, Reacher arrives at a critical moment. He must now say to Vaughan, albeit ruefully, what those who know him best always knew was inevitable: “ ‘I don’t do permanent.’ ”
When, single-handedly, Reacher takes out eight huskies in a bar-room brawl, a million plus fans will grin happily, knowing that all’s right with the action-lit world.