Black Jack (Hunt for Reacher #9), by Diane Capri

Eight starsReturning to a tried and tested series, I sought out Diane Capri’s latest in the Hunt for Reacher collection for a memorable summer read. After being seconded by the New York Field Office, FBI Special Agent Kim Otto makes her way there amidst piles of snow and blustery weather. Her assignment, to assist on a case that has ties to Jack Reacher. A woman’s body is found in a bathtub, partially filled with green paint. The victim appears to be none other than Jodie Jacob, former lover of the aforementioned Reacher. With a string of identical serial murders in the not too distant past, and Reacher as a potential suspect at that time, might he have returned to exact revenge on a girlfriend who left him high and dry? Otto cannot help but wonder, as she continues her larger assignment to locate Reacher, one she has been on for months. As the case progresses, Otto becomes uncomfortably aware that there is a power struggle within the New York office, one that reaches as high as her own boss. Might Otto have been brought it, not only to help lure Reacher out of the shadows, but also to stick a thumb in the eye of her superior? Working alone, Otto is forced to cobble together pieces of the investigation while receiving odd messages on her burner cells. She is left to wonder if Reacher is watching her in the city, but must also try to determine if it was truly Jacob in that tub and how this plays out on a larger scale. Meanwhile, a killer is going around town killing people who have slipped through the justice system, an odd form of revenge all its own. After reinforcements arrive for Otto, she seeks to piece the entire narrative together, but there are more than Reacher’s eyes watching her and it could spell disaster. Capri does well in this piece to pull the reader into the middle of the ongoing search for Jack Reacher, as well as a case that resonates and has its own red flags. Recommended for series fans or those who love Jack Reacher novels, as it is sure to please and keep them wishing for another novel featuring that rugged (non-Tom Cruise) protagonist.I have always enjoyed Capri’s take on the Reacher series and her ability to slide these novels/novellas into the middle of the Lee Child crafted books. I will admit that I binge-read many of the Reacher novels a few years ago, so the impact of each individual novel is lost on me. That being said, while I cannot reference the individual crimes to which Capri refers (tying in to Child’s work), I find these books both highly entertaining and thoroughly captivating. Kim Otto has always been that independent character whose determination could not be derailed. She shows her gumption here, left without her partner for part of the book. Otto works well under pressure and the reader can feel a close connection to her, even when faced with daunting odds. Carlos Gaspar makes his appearance in the latter portion of the book, having been on medical leave. His role is less active for obvious reasons, though his banter with Otto helps buoy the novel effectively. The Otto-Gaspar teamwork comes to the surface throughout and the reader need not worry that it will be lost in this ninth instalment. The secondary characters, including Reacher himself, show themselves to be effective conduits as the narrative pushes forward. A few breadcrumbs come out about the special Reacher assignment, including some of the FBI politics surrounding it, which can only help the reader have a better understanding of the situation. The story is strong and does have solid ties to a past Reacher novel. There is always that feel that Jack is just out of eyesight and watching as Otto and Gaspar seek him out. With ties to a past crime and Reacher’s heart, there is sure to be some intervention, though catching the man is always harder than first appears. Capri keeps the story moving well, mixing short and longer chapters to keep the reader guessing and wanting to read a little while longer. I am eager to see what else Capri has in store for series fans, with another novel almost ready for publication. This is a series that, if handled effectively, could surely go on for many more years. Kudos, Madam Capri, for keeping an energetic writing style throughout and showing readers how much fun hunting Jack Reacher can be. I look forward to the next in the series and will talk about the previous eight pieces to anyone who will listen.A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: