Oh hai Jack Reacher. 61 Hours by Lee Child sees Reacher stuck in South Dakota during a snow blizzard of the kind that lasts for days and shuts whole towns down. Coincidentally, it’s a town with a problem that needs the kind of solution Reacher can provide.
There’s an elderly woman who is a key witness in a trial against a particularly vicious Mexican criminal. Previous witnesses have been scared off or killed and the local police are giving her round-the-clock protection because they know an assassin is on the way. Obviously, at first they think it’s Reacher.
He’s on a bus full of tourists and it slides of the road in the blizzard so Reacher gets stuck in Bolton for a few days. He can’t help sticking his nose in and finds out about the witness. And about the new prison in the town that has a call-out policy that demands every police officer in town responds when there’s an escape.
Reacher uses a secret army telephone number and meets the woman currently doing his old job, to whom he forms a connection even though they only speak on the phone. He establishes that the killer must already be in town because no one is getting in or out. The Sheriff thinks it’s someone from the biker gang who live on an abandoned air force base outside the town. They are known to make and sell amphetamines but the police are finding it difficult to prove it.
Can Reacher keep the witness alive? Can he identify the killer? In the meantime, the Mexican drug lord is coming out to clear the airbase of his secret stash.
The big reveal is a surprise and it’s a good one. I hadn’t worked out who the killer was, but as soon as I knew I saw that all the clues had been there. As usual, Lee Child delivers a competently written, pacy thriller that is fun and easy to read. There’s a little bit of social commentary as the characters talk about the effect of the new prison on the town, and when they discover what’s at the airbase, which is handled very effectively. For me, it made the book the best of his that I’ve read.
As an aside, I heard that Tom Cruise is going to play Jack Reacher. While I’m not someone who thinks that an actor must look exactly like the character in the book, this seems an odd choice. This might be a mental adjustment too far.