Pros: Rich, well-drawn characters. A swift-moving but well thought out plot.
Echo Burning was the 2nd book by Lee Child that I have read, and I was as impressed by this book as I was by the first (The Hard Way). A friend recommended these books to me, and I was initially reticent, simply because I am not a huge fan of the action/vigilante genre. I do like thrillers and mysteries, though, and both of these novels contain both of these elements.
The plot is this: Jack Reacher, the protagonist, is hitchhiking in Texas. (He is a perpetual nomad who travels the country looking for adventure and trying to stay under the radar.) He is picked up by a woman of Mexican heritage who very quickly reveals the tragic circumstances of her life up to this point. Jack is taken in by her story, and agrees to come back to her ranch to further investigate her claims. (I do not want to reveal much more than that, as it would give away too much of the plot). The ranch is located in Echo County, Texas, an infernally hot and dusty wasteland. Lee Child's descriptions of the landscape and climate of this area of this country are detailed and realistic without being boring or unnecessary. The harsh climate is almost as much of the plot as anything else.
I was impressed by the richness of Child's characters, his descriptions of people and scenery, and the complexity of the plot. At the core of this novel is a "whodunnit" mystery, which I always enjoy. I thought I had the killer pegged, but I was pleased to find that I was wrong. There is a neat twist toward the end of the story that was, like the rest of the story, plausible and well thought out.
Several themes are tackled in the story, and I appreciated the subtlety with which they were handled. Illegal immigration, spousal abuse and racism figure largely into the plot, but they are dealt with realistically. The author does not try to preach to the reader or point fingers at anyone. Echo County and the inhabitants of the story are, unfortunately, reminders that some parts of the country still live in another, crueler era.
This book was, to me, a template for the perfect mystery/thriller novel. I was captivated from the first page by the characters, the settings and the plot. I really cannot think of a single reason why one should NOT rush out to their local bookstore and pick up a copy of this book for an excellent poolside or beachside read.