Although the book pushes credulity most of the time, the author creates tension and captures the reader’s interest from the beginning. The narrator is one of the best. He uses just the right amount of expression and tone to keep the reader coming back. He never interferes with the narrative, but rather enhances it with his interpretation.
The mystery begins with two characters that seem like country bumpkins. Patty Sundstrom and Shorty Fleck are a young couple. They left their home in Canada to travel to a new life. They have a battered suitcase packed with stuff to sell, once they get to New York. They need a nest egg to start a new business in Florida which is where they intend to settle. Shorty was a potato farmer and Patty had worked in a sawmill. Now they have a dream to live by the beach. When their old junker of a car began to falter, they were forced to stop, but they had no idea where they were except that they were near Laconia, New Hampshire. When Patty saw a motel sign on a country road, they decided to pull in. They stopped just short of the motel office as the car gave up the ghost.
They were short on cash but they had no choice but to stay there. The motel manager seemed very kind, and he offered to have someone try to fix their car. Unfortunately, when morning came, their car would no longer even start. Shorty was angry and blamed the motel owner, but Patty was more forgiving. After all, he had tried to help them, and now he even offered to get them a tow truck, once their phone service came back on line. There was no cell service and the landline was down. As anything that could go wrong seemed to keep going wrong, they realized that they had to stay another night. When Patty discovered that the door stuck when she tried to get out of their room, she grew concerned a little, but it opened for Shorty so she dismissed her slight fear. When the situation began to feel a little more threatening, because they were unable to leave, they kept making excuses to each other for the reason they were forced to remain at the motel. Still, they soon began to wonder if they were, somehow, purposely being delayed, but they couldn’t figure out a plausible reason for why that would be the case. They decided to remain patient and hope that help in the form of a tow truck would arrive soon.
Meanwhile, Jack Reacher was on the road, too. Coincidentally, he passed a sign in New Hampshire that pointed to Laconia, as well. He remembered that his dad had always said he grew up there, so he decided to check it out to see where his family had once lived. Because Reacher had been in the service, and so had his dad, they were not close. He had left home as a very young man and did not return until his father’s funeral. His investigation into his background, and the area, turned out to be more than he expected. He discovered a great many surprises. Also, he somehow became involved in saving someone from a sexual assault, and that brave act opened up a hornet’s nest. Before long, he thought someone was looking for him, out for revenge because of the beating he gave the attacker. Soon after, more trouble came his way. He trespassed onto an apple orchard and enraged someone else who wanted to punish him for his belligerent behavior. However, Reacher does not back down from any threat from anyone. Soon, law enforcement wanted him to leave town because he was causing too much trouble. They absolutely did not want trouble. There were some people in town who had great influence and power and could cause big problems for them. However, Reacher did not really want to leave town. He was unafraid of any danger facing him, and he really wanted to finish up what he came to do before he left and went on his way again. While all this was happening to Reacher, Shorty and Patty discovered that they were in greater and greater danger. Their very survival might soon be at stake.
There are side themes of romance and heritage in the story, but to reveal more would give it all away. It is a really entertaining and exciting read with the action building slowly to a crescendo in the finale. It is a great read for a vacation, a plane ride or a car ride because even though the story is quite often predictable, it leads up to a tense standoff until all unresolved issues are knitted tightly together.