Jack Reacher, Lee Child’s superhero-action character, returns to beat up the bad guys in the 18th installment of the Reacher series, “Never Go Back.” Jack Reacher is an ex-military cop and a one-man wrecking crew, and people who try messing with him usually end up maimed or dead.

Readers familiar with the series know that Reacher has few possessions–no cell phone, credit card, carries no ID and hasn’t had an address in years. He carries a folding toothbrush, and when his clothes get dirty, he gets new ones and discards the old ones. He eats in cheap diners, hitchhikes around the country solving problems, and getting in and out of trouble.

In this thriller, Reacher’s curiosity has finally led him back to the headquarters of his old unit, the 110th MP in northeastern Virginia. Reacher first talked to Major Susan Turner in the novel, “61 Hours,” and they have flirted several times on the phone since. He likes her voice. He decides that it is time to meet the person behind the intriguing voice to see if his mental image is anything close to reality, so he travels from South Dakota to Virginia.

When Reacher arrives at the 110th and asks for Major Turner, he has some surprises awaiting him. Major Turner is in prison on charges of taking a bribe. Then the new CO hits Reacher with the news that he has been recalled to duty.  A technicality in Reacher’s discharge papers reveals that he can be recalled and that he faces charges of rape and murder.  One of the charges involves the murder of a gangbanger in Los Angeles that he does recall thinking about killing, but didn’t.  The army brass also informs him that a woman that he does not remember, with whom he supposedly has a daughter, has slapped him with a paternity suit.

Two lawyers are assigned to Reacher after he is jailed. In typical Reacher fashion, he manages to escape, breaks Susan Turner out of her cell (…and yes, she is everything he had hoped she would be and more!) and the two are on the run. They head for Los Angeles, each with their folding toothbrushes, in order to discover if the charges against him are real or just a means to get them out of the way.

Their journey involves a clash with redneck drug dealers. Reacher fights them with his hands behind his back. He breaks a bad guy’s fingers and another guy’s arm on a crowded flight from Pittsburgh to LA without anyone on the crowded plane noticing.

Two men with code names of Romeo and Juliet are tracking Reacher’s and Turner’s every move. The have walked into a conspiracy and very powerful people want him and Turner out of their way.

Despite their frantic journey in which they try to stay ahead of the bad guys, the D.C. police, the FBI, and the army, Reacher and Turner find time for some intimacy and grow to know and respect each other. The two make a formidable team in their quest to clear their names and to find out if Reacher has a child.

This novel is full of excitement, confrontations and evil characters. It is an intricate, tightly plotted, fast-paced mystery with the usual elements of classic Reacher violence and humor. The author also shows us a slightly softer side of Reacher in this story. For fans of thrillers, the Jack Reacher series can become addictive.

“Never Go Back” is available in print and audiobook formats at the Joplin Public Library.