The eighth Jack Reacher tale (Persuader, 2003, etc.) is a fabulously suspenseful prequel that reveals Reacher’s character as he uncovers a homicidal cabal of military officers.
On New Year’s Eve 1990, Military Police Major Jack Reacher gets a call: a general is dead, evidently of a heart attack while having sex in a seedy motel near an isolated North Carolina Army base. The general and three subordinates had just arrived in the US from Germany and were en route to Fort Irwin, California. Why did the general take a 289-mile detour for a sleazy fling? Reacher crosses the road to a strip joint where he searches for the prostitute whose favors brought on the heart attack. After noticing other soldiers in the club, Reacher avenges a battered prostitute by beating up the joint’s owner. Back at the base, Reacher gets another call: the general’s wife has been bludgeoned to death during an apparent burglary of their Virginia home. Reacher teams up with Lieutenant Summer, an attractive, coolly competent black female MP, but finds few clues at the scene. Soon after, the hideously mutilated body of a Special Forces soldier whom Reacher saw at the strip joint is found. Not only had this soldier signed a complaint against Reacher about the fight at the club, but also his fatal injuries could have been inflicted only by a man of Reacher’s strength and height. The Special Forces think Reacher killed him and have marked him for death. Then, suspense at its peak, Child takes Reacher and his brother Joe to Paris to visit their dying mother. Child merely touches on the mother-son relationship that has had so much to do with the rootless, brooding action hero Reacher has become. Then it’s back to the action: another corpse, and uneasy undercurrents in Army bureaucracy that tell Reacher the post-USSR peace dividend will be anything but.
Child has turned away from formulaic high-jinks to explore his characters instead: The result? His best so far.