Jack Reacher lends a hand to an elderly couple under threat from loan sharks and winds up in the midst of an underworld war in the 24th entry in this series (Past Tense, 2018, etc.).
After Reacher saves an old man from a mugging, he finds out the man and his wife went into hock to get money for their daughter's lifesaving medical treatment. Meanwhile, in the unnamed city where the novel is set, the Albanian and Ukrainian crime bosses who have divvied up the territory are vying to see who can take over for good before the appointment of a new police commissioner. The sudden appearance of Reacher makes each suspect he's an agent for outside forces and accelerates the body count between them. That this is the best premise for a Reacher novel in some time, even if it's partly lifted from Akira Kurosawa's film Yojimbo, can't quite disguise that something has gone off in the series. Reacher's apologies to a suffering old couple that there's not much he can do isn't really what we want in a hero—especially one who has always taken such pleasure in pissing off bullies. Whenever the plot shifts to the machinations between the rival gangsters it bogs down in exposition. And while Reacher's ass-kickings have always been amusing, the series has never developed the dark ability to turn the violence into a deadpan sick joke. The carnage here should be funnier the more extreme it gets. It's not bad, but it's far from the tight, nifty execution that made the Reacher books so much fun to begin with.
Perhaps if there were more time between chapters, Child's series could recover the polish it deserves.