Lee Child truly has a gift for telling a story, and he uses it well in his latest Jack Reacher novel, "A Wanted Man."
Reacher begins by hitching a ride with three people who appear to be coming from a company sales conference.
He's hurt, sporting a badly broken nose that mars his "friendly guy" appearance, so he's happy when someone finally stops to offer him a ride.
However, it soon becomes apparent that the threesome in the sedan are not quite who they seem to be nor as innocent.
Reacher starts trying to figure out the story as they zoom across Nebraska with one passenger spelling out messages with her blinks and the others packing their guns and making it clear that they mean business.
In the meantime, law enforcement officers from all sides are trying to find the men Reacher is riding with.
It's Special Agent Julia Sorenson's case, but the case becomes increasingly complicated as other departments and agencies try to lay claim to the victim of a crime and the outcome.
As in most Reacher books, the reader has to pay attention and sometimes go back and reread a passage to catch the significance of a particular event or action.
And even though most of this book is spent in cars on long, straight roads into the darkness, it's never monotonous.
Reacher is always thinking and coming up with details that educate and entertain as he puts the pieces of the situations together. He knows all kinds of things from the way bureaucracy works to post-war surplus bunkers and nuclear waste.
He's a strangely compassionate giant of a man who can take out his enemies without compunction but then turn around and even the score nicely on the part of his friends.
He's smart and always on the alert. He is seldom cornered or caught unawares but he's also human. He can be hurt and damaged, so it's nice when other characters in the story show up to help.
Child tells a story in a swift but realistic pace, acknowledging the character's occasional need for rest, nourishment and bathroom breaks.
As with any Reacher book there is a good amount of violence as he's dealing with terrorists and the criminal element on his way to finding justice for the victims of such. There's no swearing, only subtle references to sexual interest.
He doesn't give away too much too soon, and his conclusions make sense even as it leaves Reacher basically in the same place at the end that he was at the start.
It makes for an interesting, challenging read.
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.