Echo Burning

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Echo Burning
Echo burning book.jpg
2001 Hardcover edition
Author Lee Child
Country United States
Language English
Series Jack Reacher
Genre Thriller novel
Publisher Bantam (UK), Putnam (US)
Publication date
UK: 2 April 2001
US: 25 June 2001 [1]
Media type Print (Hardcover, Paperback)
Pages 384 pp
ISBN 0-399-14726-8
OCLC 45172110
Preceded by Running Blind
Followed by Without Fail

Echo Burning is the fifth novel in the Jack Reacher series written by Lee Child. It was published in 2001 by Putnam in America and Bantam in the United Kingdom. It is written in the third person.

Plot summary[edit]

Jack Reacher breaks a bully's nose and finger after being repeatedly provoked in a Texas saloon, so when the bully turns out to be a local cop and shows up with three of his colleagues the following day to arrest him, Reacher decides it's time to move on. He chooses hitchhiking as the fastest escape and hooks up with a driver of Mexican heritage named Carmen Greer. She says that the only reason she stopped, however, is because she has a problem: Her tax-evading husband, Sloop, is coming out of prison soon, and he will inevitably continue beating her as he did so many times before, especially because he knows she was the one who informed on him. Carmen has been diligently searching for candidates to kill him, and she thinks Reacher's military background may qualify him for the job. Reacher initially refuses and even leaps out of the car and back into the sweltering 110-degree (Fahrenheit) heat, but then he expeditiously changes his mind and agrees to accept a ride back to her ranch. It is there that Carmen, her husband Sloop and the rest of his family live, and Reacher is promising nothing more than to look into the situation and, if necessary, to act as her bodyguard. Carmen and Jack then proceed to pick up her daughter Ellie, who gets on well with Reacher.

Meanwhile, two other groups are introduced: a group of watchers, composed of two men and a boy, who have been staking out the ranch, and their employers, a trio of hitmen (two men and one woman) who kill them to cover their tracks after murdering Al Eugene, the lawyer who had secured Sloop's release.

Carmen and Reacher arrive back at the ranch, but Jack does not receive a warm welcome from Sloop's bigoted mother, brother, or the two ranchers who work there. Reacher gets the Greers to hire him as a wrangler, and teaches Carmen how to handle a firearm. The family orders the other ranchers to dispose of Jack; he subdues them and returns unharmed. Sloop then arrives, and claims Jack is trespassing; he is arrested and removed by Texas Rangers.

On route, the rangers are called back: Sloop has been shot and killed, and the authorities charge Carmen with the murder after finding a gun. Furthermore, while she is incarcerated, she suddenly confesses to the murder and assiduously denies legal help from Alice Amanda Aaron, the pro bono attorney whom Reacher procures for her.

Assisted by Hack Walker, the Pecos County district attorney and an old friend of Sloop's, Jack and Alice discover a cover-up related to the murder of several illegal immigrants by three disgraced Border Patrol agents, including Hack and Sloop. Concluding that Hack orchestrated the murders in order to protect himself, and that he is pressuring Carmen to confess by threatening Ellie's life, Jack kills two of the hitmen in an ambush and confronts Hack at the ranch, whereupon Sloop's mother kills him as a fire breaks out and burns down their house. After tracking down and subduing the third man at a motel before he kills Ellie, Jack leaves Carmen to start a new life as he prepares to look for a ride out of Texas.


Child finished writing Echo Burning in March 2000. The book was released in the United Kingdom and its territories on 2 April 2001, and the American publication followed on 25 June of the same year.[1]

The original idea for Echo Burning came from two sources. The first was an idea he had in which he wondered what it would be like to a woman whose husband was returning home from jail, but she didn't want him to return. He also took inspiration from seeing the grave of the gunfighter Clay Allison who "never killed a man that did not need killing." He wondered what it would be like if Reacher was confronted by a man he had been told needed killing.[2]

Child wanted Carmen Greer to appear as a character whom readers would not know whether or not to trust. He has also said how we wanted Alice Amanda Aaron, the Harvard educated, vegetarian, lesbian, attorney Reacher hires, to be a reflection of how diverse America is; he can be quoted as saying "she's totally normal in New York, but a freak in Texas." [2]


Echo Burning was well received by critics. In a starred review, book review journal Kirkus Reviews called it "Smashingly suspenseful," and said "Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence." The Denver Post called it "...a story you can sink your teeth into." Many critics considered this as one of the best books of the year, with the Boston Globe even calling it "The best mystery I [the reviewer] have read this year." In the United Kingdom the book was also well received, with the Daily Mail saying: "In the space of less than five years, Child has established himself as one of Britain's most successful commercial novelists. [Echo Burning is] Child's breakthrough book into the mega-sellers. He is that good."[3]


  1. ^ a b ""Reacher Report" archives on Lee Child's official website". Lee Child Official Website. Retrieved June 2009.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  2. ^ a b "Internet Writing Journal interview with Lee Child". Internet Writing Journal. Retrieved June 2009.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  3. ^ "Echo Burning information page on Lee Child's Official Website". Lee Child Official Website. Retrieved June 2009.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)

External links[edit]