Burning Bright
By Nick Petrie
G.P. Putnam's Sons. 429 pp. $26

Reviewed by David Martindale

nolead ends Nick Petrie's Burning Bright and his still-new series character, Peter Ash, an Afghanistan and Iraq veteran with a knack for finding trouble, recalls the great Lee Child and two-fisted Jack Reacher.

Burning Bright is the second novel featuring Ash. He made his debut last year in The Drifter. Emblazoned across the cover of Burning Bright is a ringing endorsement from Child himself: "Lots of characters get compared to my own Jack Reacher, but Peter Ash is the real deal."

The two heroes are cut from the same cloth, and their adventures are action-packed from start to finish, but the writing and the characters are different enough that the newcomer doesn't feel like a copycat.

Stateside after eight years of dangerous deployments, the thirtysomething decorated Recon Marine is a smart and skilled adrenaline junkie. He's a man with a code and strong feelings about right and wrong. He's ever-ready to step in for those in need of a white knight, even if he's greatly outnumbered.

Alas, this Superman has his own form of Kryptonite: post-traumatic stress that manifests itself as a crippling kind of claustrophobia - or what he calls "white static." In short, he loses his edge indoors.

Burning Bright opens with him backpacking alone among the giant redwoods in northern California. A chance encounter with an aggressive grizzly sends Peter scrambling 40 feet up a tree. While up there, he spots a climbing rope dangling from a taller, neighboring tree. He decides to find out what's on the other end of that rope. That leads him to a hidden platform hundreds of feet up at the top of the forest canopy - and straight into the life of June Cassidy, a young woman on the run from a team of muscle-bound mercenaries.

The first quarter of the book is a roller-coaster adventure in an almost literal sense, a fast and dangerous chase that begins with a zip-line ride from tree to tree and ends with a wild auto pileup and shoot-out along a desolate forest road. It's what Peter thinks of as "a pretty interesting day." The story morphs into a complicated high-tech conspiracy thriller that fans will find both surprising and comfortably familiar.

Child fans complain that we read his Reacher novels much faster than he can write them. So it's nice to have somebody new like Petrie, a very talented writer, who can help us endure the wait till our main man drifts back into our lives.

This review originally appeared in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.