My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The nomadic Jack Reacher hitches a ride on a tour bus in South Dakota, only to have it skid off the road during an intensifying blizzard. The town folk put up the stranded travelers in their homes, but the police can’t provide immediate assistance because of a riot at the new local prison. When one of the cops learns of Reacher’s background in law enforcement, they recruit him to provide protection for a key witness in an upcoming drug trial. In a departure for author Child, much of the 61 hours is spent in conversation between Reacher and the witness, an insightful retiree, rather than in back to back action sequences. This woman gently probes into Reacher’s tough-as-nails facade, and the reader gains some understanding about his inner self. He also has numerous phone conversations with the woman who now holds his former position in the special forces. After couple of days, Reacher comes to the realization that the drug trial and the prison riots are interconnected, and the action starts to intensify.
This is a solid plot with some original elements, and author Child departs from his typical non-stop action format by having Reacher engage in some introspective conversations with two insightful women. This does lead the reader – and Reacher himself – to greater understanding about how he came to live the life of a loner with a hard-as-nails exterior. Child skillfully draws you into the bleak, dark, frozen setting, and he’s drawn up two very interesting characters in those two women. His third person narrator ramps up the suspense with periodic countdowns till zero hour. Regrettably, 61 hours is about 10 hours too many to postpone real action, and there’s a period of slogging along before it becomes clear that the prison riots and the drug trial are inextricably wound together. From that point, a series of startling events culminates in a truly explosive ending. Rumor has it that the sequel is due to be released this fall.