Jack Reacher is back, post-9/11. At first confused by a bank balance that doesnít match his expectations, Reacher belatedly realizes that this is a code for assistance from one of the crew he ran for the government, an elite corps of soldiers who could accomplish virtually any impossible task, in and out without fail. By now, mustered out of the service, they have all gone their separate ways.
Reacher is the first to respond, although the call has gone out to all but one of the eight on the team, locating Frances Neagley in L.A. Later, Karla Dixon and Dave OíDonnell arrive, concerned about the probable fate of the others. Unraveling this mystery requires all their considerable skills, the experienced team once believing themselves invincible.
Neagley informs them that one of their number has been killed - Calvin Franz, the victim of a violent death. When only four answer Francesís request, it occurs to the rest that perhaps the others are dead as well, revenge left to those remaining. But first they backtrack, hoping for a clue as to Franzís murder. Although years have passed, the team is not surprised to find themselves once more thinking as one, the chain of command as familiar as in the days of active duty.
To that end, Reacher and Dixon contemplate a series of numbers discovered on a flash drive the police and the killers have missed when searching Franzís office. It soon becomes clear that solving the case and tracking down the murderers depends upon an accurate interpretation of the numbers, adding a mathematical ingredient that continues throughout.
Reacherís appeal, and by extension that of his comrades, is their outside-the-law mentality and ability to out-maneuver and out-plan even the cleverest villain. I begin any Reacher adventure with anticipation, expecting the same qualities, tension, mystery and healthy dose of the violence that is endemic to Childís popular series. Jack Reacher strolls through circumstances that would fell a lesser man, his stalwart comrades willingly at his side. Thatís his appeal: large, smart, ruthless.
The formula works just as well here, but loses some of its excitement with the plotís reliance on mathematical projections to uncover clues that take the crew from L.A. to Las Vegas. Unfortunately, this novel is new, not vintage, Reacher, a kinder, gentler, less frequently violent man than in the other titles (The Killing Floor, Die Trying). The Jack Reacher in Bad Luck and Trouble isnít nearly as compelling as in the other novels. Hopefully he hasnít lost his edge and will return to the macho warrior that so defines the series.