The new Jack Reacher thriller, by Lee Child, is as smart and entertaining as the other 15. But this one is different. “The Affair,” told in Reacher’s own words, takes us back to the beginning. We find out how and why the 6-foot, 5-inch lone avenger first stuck out his thumb and hitched across America. Wherever he alights he finds gross injustice in need of righting. And that’s when the fun always starts.

The new Jack Reacher thriller, by Lee Child, is as smart and entertaining as the other 15. But this one is different. “The Affair,” told in Reacher’s own words, takes us back to the beginning. We find out how and why the 6-foot, 5-inch lone avenger first stuck out his thumb and hitched across America. Wherever he alights he finds gross injustice in need of righting. And that’s when the fun always starts.


Reacher grew up in the military. His father served and so did he. In 1997, when “The Affair” takes place, Reacher was a major in the army’s military police. He was spectacularly talented, a systematic thinker, and, in his own words, a brawler when it came to fighting. To be fair, he was a deadly and precise brawler. He could snap a neck or deliver a killing blow in the time it takes to blink an eye. There are many in Reacher’s past who wished they hadn’t blinked and many more incapable of having a wish.


In “The Affair,” Reacher is asked by higher ups at the Pentagon to travel to Carter Crossing, Miss., the town where Kelham army base is located. He’s to go undercover to Carter Crossing to assess how the local police are handling the murder of a beautiful young woman. It’s a delicate matter because she had been dating a commander at the base. To make matters worse, his father is the chairman of the Amed Services Committee.


Reacher takes one look at the local sheriff and falls head over heels in lust. Author Lee Child’s sex scenes are as plotted and procedural as Reacher’s thinking and his fighting. But that’s always been the case. The good stuff has to do with plotting and Reacher himself, a very smart mega hero who thinks funny thoughts. For example, when describing some local militia who’ve been secretly entrusted with guarding Kelham’s perimeter, Reacher eyes the thin man in the trio of hapless soldiers. “He was what you get when you eat squirrels for four generations. Smarter than a rat and tougher than a goat, and jumpier than either one.” Reacher fans must live for these wise cracks, often delivered in the heat of a confrontational moment.


The clever plot has a few red herrings to throw us off course though loyal fans know to trust Reacher’s judgment in certain matters. By the time the book ends, five people have been murdered, not counting the ones Reacher dispatches. The base has been locked down and Carter Crossing’s three law enforcement officers have their hands more than full. Of course Reacher is needed. Of course he steps up to the plate. And in the process he triggers the ruin of his own military career and thus begins his restless wanderlust.


Rae Francoeur can be reached at rae.francoeur@verizon.net. Read her blog at http://www.freefallrae.blogspot.com/ or her book, “Free Fall: A Late-in-Life Love Affair,” available online or in bookstores.