The last time we saw Jack Reacher, he was in a hell of a spot.
In the final pages of 61 Hours, published this year, Lee Child's iconic hero — the ex-military cop turned vagabond — was trapped at the center of a conflagration so intense that it triggered alarms on missile-tracking satellites. Mother of mercy! Is this the end of Reacher?
It comes as a relief, if something of a puzzlement, to find Reacher upright in the opening pages of Worth Dying For. We're told that he's hurting — "Every tendon and ligament and muscle from his fingertips to his rib cage burned and quivered" — but even at half-strength he's still able to crack a few heads when the situation demands it, which it does soon enough.
Child keeps us waiting for an explanation of how Reacher survived the earlier carnage. In the meantime, he sets his "250-pound gutter rat" off on a fresh round of mayhem.
Longtime readers will recognize the pattern: Reacher washes up in a small town and stops for a cup of coffee. By the time it cools, he finds himself pulled into a web of intrigue, locking horns with a drug kingpin or foiling a political assassination.
This time he is passing through a remote corner of Nebraska, where the "land all around was dark and flat and dead and empty."
When he intervenes in an apparent case of spousal abuse, he runs afoul of the powerful, creepily evil Duncan family, who are desperate to protect their interest in a mysterious international trafficking scheme. At the same time, he digs into a cold case involving a missing 8-year-old girl.
Some readers may feel that Child's explanation of how Reacher survived the inferno at the end of 61 Hours is a trifle thin, given the care that went into fanning the flames in the earlier book. Be that as it may, Worth Dying For is a model of suspenseful storytelling and an outstanding addition to a series that stands in the front rank of modern thrillers.