Ever wonder why Jack Reacher left the Military Police and became a one-man freelance vigilante squad? Child goes back 14 years to show how it all happened.
His commanding officer, Col. Leon Garber, clearly doesn’t want to send Maj. Reacher to Carter Crossing, Miss., any more than Reacher wants to go. But Fort Kelham is a particularly bad place for a murder because Capt. Reed Riley, who commands Bravo Company there, is the son of Sen. Carlton Riley, the chair of the Armed Services Committee. And the rape and murder of Janice May Chapman in a nearby bar’s parking lot rings so many alarms that Garber needs someone to work undercover, basically spying on the local cops, as Maj. Duncan Munro heads the official investigation. No sooner has Reacher hitched into Carter Crossing than he makes several surprising discoveries. Janice May Chapman wasn’t killed in that parking lot. She was only the latest in a series of Carter Crossing murders. The first two victims, equally beautiful but African-American, poorer and less headline-worthy, have been forgotten by everyone but their families. Sheriff Elizabeth Deveraux orders Reacher out of town but then relents far enough to take him into her confidence and her bed. Reacher, who excels as both a lover and a fighter, has his early moments as a hard-nosed sleuth and a junkyard dog (after he taunts an aggrieved local family who’ve sent only three hulking guys to beat him up, he’s faced with six next time around). But the meteor shower of potential enemies coming at Reacher from every side—Sheriff Deveraux, Maj. Munro, Senate Liaison Col. John James Frazer, Sen. Riley and his son, a militia calling itself the Tennessee Free Citizens and that family of hulking yahoos—work against the action-driven inevitability of Child at his best (Worth Dying For, 2010, etc.). And he’s not as good as his competitors at devising the riddle-wrapped-in-a-mystery-inside-an-enigma structure he uses instead.
The best thing we discover here is the explanation for why Reacher left the Army. By the end of this adventure, he certainly has his reasons.