Echo Burning is the 5th novel in the Jack Reacher series. In this book he’s hitchiking in West Texas and is picked up by a beautiful Latino woman with a big problem. Her abusive husband is about to get out of jail and she’s looking for someone to help her – i.e., kill her husband. Carmen lives on her husband’s family’s ranch with her six-year-old daughter and for all intents and purposes is a captive there; she has no money, has to borrow her mother-in-law’s car, and concern for her daughter keeps her from running away. To add a little interest, there are some mysterious people watching the ranch and tracking everyone’s movements. And, these mysterious watchers are connected to three very professional assassins!
The husband arrives home and within hours Carmen is arrested for her husband’s murder. Reacher believes she’s justified and hooks up with an attorney who does pro bono work for the poor, mostly Hispanic, people in the area. Together they investigate and do their best to get Carmen off.
Of course, the Jack Reacher novels are popular for a reason. As always, Reacher is a compelling character and the plot is complex enough to keep your interest without being too unbelievable. Reacher is intriguing in both his capabilities and his philosophy – although he’s a somewhat taciturn man, you can’t help but like him. And you totally trust him! If I were in a tight spot, I’d want Reacher on my side. I also enjoy the fact that the Reacher novels always take place in a different location. It’s fun to get the perspective and feel of different places around the U.S.
Having said that, I live in Texas and felt his portrayal of the white rancher’s disdain for the Hispanic population was a little over done. That might have been true 40 or 50 years ago, but times have changed and I don’t think it’s as bad as he portrayed. However, West Texas is different, and that attitude is probably more prevelant than in Central and East Texas; especially in an area that is as sparsely populated as fictitious Echo County – just about an hour south of Pecos. Still, my first thought when I ran across that description was “what does an Englishman living in New York City know about Texas?” But, it’s a minor issue and his description is integral to the plot, so I’ll let it go.
The only other thing that didn’t really ring true to me was the matriarch’s attitude to her grandaughter. Per Carmen, and validated by future actions on the Grandmother’s part, the Grandmother had no feelings whatsoever for her only grandchild. I know this happens, but it seems a bit far-fetched to me. Particularly since the child was born and raised in such close quarters to the Grandmother. Other than Reacher, the child, and the lawyer, none of the characters are particularly endearing, but they are who they are, and they fulfill their roles in the book.
Overall, it was an exciting and interesting book. I would highly recommend this or any book in the Jack Reacher series to those enjoying this genre and will certainly continue reading the series, myself.
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