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Trash Fiction Corner!: Should I buy Lee Child’s latest Jack Reacher novel?

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Book: A Wanted Man, by Lee Child

Hero: Jack Reacher

Background me on him: He’s a former Army cop who wanders America, carrying no possessions — completely free. Except that he always stumbles into trouble. Which he can handle, because he’s 6-foot-5, violent and smart.

Why does he sound familiar? Tom Cruise is playing him in One Shot, adapted from an earlier novel.

Last I checked, Tom Cruise isn’t 6-foot-5, even on Oprah’s couch: Reacher fans wonder about that, too.

So, gist me on this book: There’s been a murder in a nameless town in wintry Nebraska. Reacher is, coicidentally, hitchhiking through wintry Nebraska when he’s picked up by a car carrying two men and a woman. Hmm, right? The first half of the book toggles between the crime scene, as various federal agencies get involved, and the car, in which Reacher …

Wait — we spend the first half of the book in a car? Yes. As I was saying … in which Reacher figures out that something’s up with his companions. Actually, it kinda works — it’s more tense than you’d guess. There’s the usual shell game of which fed is dirty, a few red herrings, some killings and intimations of terrorism, as Reacher races around trying to piece it all together.

What aren’t you telling me? Well, there are a few passages — a ridiculously improbable scene in which Reacher and a woman communicate by blinking — that suggest a writer struggling to stay interested. More padding. And the ending feels like a dutiful roll-out of minor plot tie-ups instead of the Big Reveal that Child has used to great effect before.

Should I buy it? It’s hard to say no. There are still stretches of fine genre writing in A Wanted Man, and even an underwhelming Reacher is better than none. Maybe wait for the paperback? SCOTT DICKENSHEETS

A WANTED MAN Lee Child, Delacorte, 416 pages