Jack Reacher, the hero of Lee Child’s long-running series of mystery-thrillers, is a highly decorated ex-military policeman who now lives a rootless life as a drifter. He just wants to “ramble,” as he puts it, and see parts of America he’s never seen before. Along the way, he keeps getting into thorny situations that require his unique set of skills. He’s a brilliant, observant investigator with an analytical mind, to be sure, but his most impressive talents involve hand-to-hand combat: He’s six-foot-five, 250 pounds, and an absolutely brutal fighter. And wherever he happens to be, he finds new mysteries to solve and new villains to fight.

Reacher’s story begins in the 1997 novel Killing Floor, which won the Anthony Award for Best First Novel and forms the basis for the first season of a new Amazon Prime Video series, premiering on Feb. 4.

In Killing Floor, Reacher rambles into the (fictional) small town of Margrave, Georgia, and is almost immediately accused of murder. He’s innocent, but that doesn’t stop local authorities from tossing him into state prison for the weekend with another suspect; there, Reacher gets into a bone-crunching brawl but survives, hardly the worse for wear. After his alibi checks out and he’s released, he finds out that the murder victim was someone very close to him, who just happened to be in the same town. Reacher aims to find the killer with the help of local cops Finlay and Roscoe; as more bodies pile up, the mystery gets more complicated, and even necessitates a trip to New York. The eventual solution is appealingly clever, and the story ends in a satisfying conflagration—before Reacher, of course, hits the road to wander once more. (Twenty-five more series installments followed; No Plan B, co-written by Child and his younger brother Andrew, will hit shelves in October.)

The new show, which counts Child and showrunner Nick Santora (Scorpion) as executive producers, is impressively faithful to Killing Floor. It not only matches that story’s many twists and turns but also delivers some truly excellent fight scenes for action connoisseurs. They’re every bit as bloody as they are on the page—and that’s saying something: “Two huge hands at my throat. Strangling me.…I reached up an broke his little fingers. I heard the knuckles splinter over the roaring in my ears. Then I broke his ring fingers. More splintering. Like a chicken pulling apart.” The show’s fight choreography is so good that one feels real concern for the actors.

The main characters are impeccably cast, which one can’t say for previous adaptations of Child’s novels. Those films—2012’s Jack Reacher (based on One Shot) and 2016’s Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (based on the Kirkus-starred novel)—featured Tom Cruise, a very capable action star, but one who looks nothing like Reacher. The streaming series stars Titans’ Alan Ritchson, who has an appropriately intimidating presence and convincingly portrays Reacher’s steely determination. He plays the character as someone who’s not especially interested in making friends, but who’s very good to have on your side—unlike Cruise, who simply can’t turn off his movie-star likability, in spite of himself.

The show’s supporting cast, however, is much more affable. Malcolm Goodwin, who was a highlight of the much-loved CW show iZombie, plays frustrated veteran police detective Finlay with lots of charm, and Dare Me’s Willa Fitzgerald, as uniformed cop Roscoe, brings a welcome toughness to a role that, in the novel, exists mainly to provide Reacher with a temporary love interest. Fans of Child’s books will also appreciate an unexpected, if brief, appearance of private-security operative Frances Neagley, played by Swamp Thing’s Maria Sten; she’s a recurring character in the novels, but not until Without Fail, the sixth in the series. She’ll likely appear in future seasons of the show, but one can’t say the same for Finlay and Roscoe, which is a shame. It can’t be helped: Jack Reacher was born a rambling man.

David Rapp is the senior Indie editor.