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"Don't Know Jack," by Diane Capri, a Book Review

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Peggy is author of two fiction novels, short stories, articles, book reviews and is a regular contributor on Hub Pages and online sites.

First of the Hunt for Reacher Series

First of the Hunt for Reacher Series

A four am phone call from her employer sends Kim Otto, FBI Special Agent, to Margrave, Georgia, where Jack Reacher was last known to be. From her first-class seat, on the Detroit to Atlanta flight she studies four encrypted case files sent by her boss detailing the task ahead. The off-the-books undercover assignment is to be completed under the radar and without official acknowledgement. Cue Mission Impossible music.

“Don’t Know Jack” picks up fifteen years after “Killing Floor,” by Lee Child. Otto, the main character, is tasked with conducting a thorough background investigation of retired U.S. Army Major Jack Reacher. But first she must find him. He was last seen in a tiny town after a crime syndicate was busted and a bunch of criminals were left dead, likely Reacher’s doing. Otto is driven to complete the assignment. If she messes up, her career is at risk. As she follows the elusive trail of the cold-blooded killer, he stays one step ahead, managing to evade her with uncanny Houdini-like magic.

Otto popped antacid tablets sitting white-knuckled in first-class as she headed south.

Otto popped antacid tablets sitting white-knuckled in first-class as she headed south.

“Margrave was one hour and about a hundred years south of Atlanta.”

After reviewing Reacher’s military file, she knew her task would not be easy. He would be like no candidate she’d investigated before. Being off the grid for fifteen years, no track record of Retired Army Major Jack “none” Reacher, military hero was found in any of the alphabet agencies. The facts were that no one knew where he was. More than likely he didn’t want to be found.

Street smart and business wise Kim copied the pertinent files along with her notes into a CYA file in her own personal documents. Too many people had access to the general FBI files and too many careers had been destroyed by loose lips. She’d learned to be careful.

Otto, senior agent on the Special Personnel Task Force, is paired with Carlos Gaspar, a 44-year-old with four kids recovering from previous on-the-job injuries. Her hesitancy in asking him for details leaves her questioning his stamina. Gaspar’s objective is to put in his remaining twenty and retire to Florida with the family. His calm demeanor both agitates and calms his new partner as he sleeps and eats his way through most crises handing out deadpan remarks like candy. In contrast, Otto is the tightly-wound, Type A overachiever of the odd couple. She’s an “everything by the book” daughter of a Vietnam veteran and a Vietnamese woman. Ninety-eight pounds of dynamite in a ten-pound package, she sees herself as bigger than her small frame would suggest.

The secrecy and urgency of the agents’ assignment lacks concrete details giving Otto a bad feeling about it. The more she studies the scant files sent from her boss, the less comfortable she becomes. Too much is missing in the way of needed info.

“What always made her nervous were the things she didn’t know. What you didn’t know could kill you.”

Timing

“Reacher had investigated, arrested, subdued, and otherwise dealt with some of the most highly trained soldiers on earth, all of them capable of extreme violence. He had done it by matching their violence with his own. He was a killer.”

There had been one strongly-emphasized point in the 3-minute pre-dawn telephone call from Otto’s boss. They were to arrive at the interview location of the first subject no later than 11:30 am. Gaspar and Otto arrived at the Margrave police station by 11:15 am, giving them fifteen minutes to chat up the local Chief of Police before the deadline. As someone who had been in direct contact with Reacher in the past, hers was one of the case files sent from the boss.

The timing of their arrival proved to be a key factor of the entire operation, putting them in position to investigate a local murder with local law enforcement. From there, clues came to light that would open up a can of worms taking them in various directions in their pursuit of their main target, Jack Reacher.

At precisely eleven-thirty a call came into the Chief of Police’s office. Someone’s been murdered and Otto and Gaspar’s interview is interrupted. They convince the Chief to let them tag along to the crime scene. After taking some photos and making their own private observations, they drive back closer to Atlanta to rest and regroup. As they’re checking into their hotel, Otto’s phone starts ringing.

It’s her boss, "whose name must not be spoken.” The walls might have ears or he’s planted a GPS tracker since he always seems to know where she is. Sleep deprived, rain soaked, and hungry, she’s instructed to submit a complete report by ten pm. By ten-thirty, they’re to be on a plane headed for Kennedy Airport in NY.

“Gaspar read all four files. There were photographs. Kim Otto was cute as anything. Asian and tiny. Reacher was a shadowy ex-military psychopath.”

"When you come to a fork in the road, take it." Yogi Berra

"When you come to a fork in the road, take it." Yogi Berra

Their second target interview has precise timing built into their two am arrival. As time ticks away and their plans go south, Otto’s hopes for a swift conclusion to the assignment are dashed.

Elegant, immaculately dressed, politically well-connected, Finlay shows up late with cryptic bits of knowledge that he keeps close at hand. In a short twenty minutes, the agents realize this assignment goes far deeper than expected.

“Everything Otto had learned about Finlay marked him dangerous.”

Weaving in and out of tricky situations, the newly formed partnership of Otto and Gaspar grows efficient at guessing one another’s strategies while they plod through the clues. Twists and turns keep the reader turning pages as the agents grow closer to their ultimate target, Jack Reacher.

This fun read satisfies the need to keep the Reacher story going, especially for die-hard fans. The fast-paced crime thriller reunites fans with familiar characters as they chase the original personalities of the Lee Child series. With a well-deserved endorsement from their original creator, Capri’s complementary characters are resilient, likeable and thoroughly entertaining.

Meet Jack Reacher

Meet Jack Reacher, soon to be seen on the not yet released TV series.

© 2021 Peg Cole

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