Soldier-turned-soldier-of-fortune Jack Reacher goes after a serial killer in a conventionally but nonetheless deeply satisfying whodunit.
In today's armed services, you lose even when you win—at least if you're a woman who files a sexual harassment complaint. Amy Callan and Caroline Cooke were both successful in their suits, which ended the careers of their alleged harassers. But Callan and Cooke ended up leaving the service themselves, and now they're both dead, murdered by a diabolical perp who keeps leaving behind the same crime scene—the victim's body submerged in a bathtub filled with camouflage paint—and not a single clue to the killer's identity or the cause of death. The FBI hauls in Reacher, who handled both women's complaints as an Army MP, as a prime suspect, then offers to upgrade him to a consulting investigator when their own surveillance gives him an alibi for a third killing. No thanks, says our hero, who's taken an instant dislike to FBI profiler Julia Lamarr, until the Feds' threats against his lawyer girlfriend Jodie Jacob (Tripwire, 1999) bring him into the fold. While Reacher is pretending to study lists of potential victims and suspects and fending off the government-sponsored advances of Quantico's comely Lisa Harper, the murderer is getting ready to pounce on a fourth victim: Lamarr's stepsister Alison. This latest coup does nothing to improve relations between Reacher and the Feebees, all of them determined to prove they're the toughest hombres in the parking lot, but it does set the stage for some honest sleuthing, some treacherous red herrings, and some convincing evidence for Reacher's assertion that all that profiling stuff is just plain common sense.
Even readers who identify the criminal, motive, and modus operandi early on (and many readers will) can plan to stay up long past bedtime and do some serious hyperventilating toward the end.