Jack Reacher is back in Lee Child’s 23rd book in the series and it’s a strange one.
This time around, Reacher is vagabonding across the country again. He’s decided to hitchhike diagonally from New England to Southern California for the winter. He doesn’t make it very far. The first guy that picks Reacher up gets an emergency phone call and needs to head back home. So he lets Reacher out in the middle of nowhere next to a sign coincidentally pointing toward the small New Hampshire town where Reacher’s dad was born. Why not pay a visit to the ancestral home?
Chapter two starts with Shorty and Patty, a pair of Canadians seeking a new life in the U.S. They have a heavy suitcase full of something valuable they plan to sell in New York and use the profits to set themselves up with a windsurfing business in Florida. Unfortunately, they’re having car trouble and need to stop at a secluded motel run by a quartet of overly accommodating, creepy young men who seem to have something sinister planned. Remote control locks, hidden cameras, and metal bars embedded in the walls don’t seem like standard motel features.
Here’s where things get weird. These two stories basically never intersect. Chapters alternate between Reacher doing genealogical research at the town library and the Canadian couple discovering hints that their lives are in danger. Until the final pages, the stories are completely separate, literally and thematically. Reacher gets into few of his trademark brawls, making enemies with local apple farmers and the Boston mob, but for most of his story, he’s scouring over census reports, birth records, and the minutes of a teenage bird watching club. When he finally crosses paths with Shorty and Patty to (((spoiler alert))) save them from the villainous motel-keepers, they’re already well on the way to saving themselves. They share just a few sentences and then they’re separated again. It’s a shockingly experimental story structure for such a mainstream book series.
I don’t want to give the impression I didn’t like the book. Like all the Reacher books, it is very enjoyable to read. I had a hard time putting it down and read the whole thing in two or three sessions. If you’re a Reacher fan, I’m sure you’ll like this one, too. If you’re new to the series, I recommend going back to an earlier volume.