Echo Burning


Lee Child


Mystery & Thriller


Date Reviewed:

October 16, 2019

cho Burning is book number five in the long running Jack Reacher series; it is the fifth book that was published, it came out back in 2001. In chronological order, Echo Burning is currently twelfth, but of course Lee Child write another earlier entry into the series whenever he chooses. Fortunately, the books don't need to be read in order, each is a stand alone novel.

Jack Reacher is an ex-army investigator, but he no longer serves in the army. Instead, Reacher leads a minimalist existence, wandering around the country with little more than the clothes on his back and a toothbrush to his name. If Reacher has any goals beyond aimless wandering, they are not mentioned in this book. But of course, since this is a thriller, trouble finds Reacher no matter where he strays.

The novel opens with Reacher making a quick escape from a seedy Texan town. It seems that there was an altercation in a bar the night before, and a rude off-duty policeman suffered some bruises from Reacher. In the morning, the policeman comes to the motel where Reacher is staying, but this time the cop has backup. Reacher slips out the window and hustles over to the highway and sticks out a hitch-hikers thumb. Fortuitously, a cadillac stops and picks him up, and Reacher escapes one mess - only to find himself embroiled in a bigger problem.

The driver of the cadillac is Carmen Greer, a beautiful young Mexican-American. Carmen spins a story about her abusive husband who is about to get out of prison. Carmen is certain he will kill her. Carmen asks Reacher to come to their ranch (in the county of Echo, Texas) and act as her bodyguard (what Carmen REALLY wants is for Reacher to kill her husband, Sloop, but Reacher declines to take that commission). Why not just drive away in the cadillac? asks Reacher. Carmen has a young daughter that she can't leave behind, and unfortunately, the powerful Greer clan would never part with the daughter, even though they hate Carmen. Reacher reluctantly agrees to sign on as a ranch hand on the Greer ranch.

Meanwhile, there is a parallel plot about a team of three ruthless assassins. Right from the beginning of the novel, they ambush a guy driving down a Texas highway, dispatch him, and hide his body. The three assassins then get another job, one that directs them to a ranch in Echo County...

Also happening at the same time, the reader is shown a group of three observers who hide up on a ridge all day long, recording the comings and goings of everyone on a certain ranch in Texas...

Child does an excellent job of ratcheting up the tension. The situation gets more complicated. Reacher encounters all kinds of unsavory individuals, all with their own evil agenda. Is Carmen telling the truth? Is anyone? What I like is how there are subtle clues that Reacher notices, which help him tease out the story and learn who is REALLY lying. Of course, Reacher meets a beautiful, brilliant lawyer who is working for the poor, and of course she agrees to aid him in his mystery - I thought that this was the least plausible plot point of the novel..

There are dramatic scenes of violence. Reacher eventually gets to the bottom of the matter. We learn what the deadly assassins are plotting, and why there are observers monitoring the ranch. The novel races to a rousing finish. The pages fly by so fast that there really isn't time to stop and think. My paperback edition is nearly 600 pages long, but I read the entire story over the course of one long airplane ride. I definitely recommend this book.