The transient Jack Reacher finds himself in tiny Margrave, Georgia, and is almost immediately arrested, if briefly, as a murder suspect. Imagine his surprise when he discovers that one of the victims is his brother, a brilliant U.S. Treasury agent. Reacher himself is no slouch; a former military policeman, he can dispatch villains with an astonishing array of weapons, including various parts of his body. In the company of a straight-arrow detective and a beautiful lady cop, Reacher soon unearths a conspiracy stretching through the little town and beyond. Blood flows freely, terrible threats are made and carried out, and body parts accumulate. First novelist Child, a former television writer, stretches coincidence outrageously in this would-be noir outing, whose hero is creepily amoral, violent, and generally unpleasant. Only large pop fiction collections need consider.‘Elsa Pendleton, Boeing Information Svcs., Ridgecrest, Cal.
Although the tale is built around a coincidence as big as the author's talent, beautifully detailed action scenes and fascinating arcana about currency and counterfeiting enliven this taut and tough-minded first novel by British TV writer Child. Out of sheer restlessness and rootlessness, 36-year-old ex-military policeman Jack Reacher persuades a Greyhound bus driver to make an unscheduled stop in Margrave, the small Georgia town where Reacher's brother, a U.S. Treasury official, just happens to have been murdered a few hours earlier. Reacher doesn't know about his brother's death or suspect his presence in the town. Indeed, when he's arrested in a local diner for being a conspicuously mysterious stranger, Reacher tells the detective who interviews him that he dropped off the bus to investigate the death of Blind Blake, a guitar player murdered in Margrave 60 years ago. Downsized out of the military, Reacher has cutting-edge investigative and killing skills that come in handy the moment he learns of his brother's murder. This combination of events is so unbelievably convenient that it almost overwhelms the book's solid writing. The reader expects the other shoe to drop-for Reacher to be revealed as an undercover agent, or some such; but it never does. Otherwise, Child writes with a hand as strong and steady as steel. Margrave is a wonderful creation, a seemingly picture- perfect community under the care of a mysterious foundation where the streets are always swept and the people who run the tiny local businesses get grants of $1000 a week to stay open. Two scenes of brutal violence in a nearby prison are rendered with exquisite precision, as is a stalking murder inside the baggage area of the Atlanta airport, and the vast counterfeiting conspiracy that Reacher's brother was probing is wholly credible. (Mar.)