I haven’t previously read the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child, although his fans I’ve talked with are extremely loyal and eagerly grab each new installment as it hits the shelves. Then I met him at a recent mystery conference and he seemed so intelligent, I decided to give the series a try. I started with The Enemy, because although it wasn’t written first, it is the earliest in the fictional life of Jack Reacher.
When we first meet Jack, he’s a Major in the Military Police, an Academy grad and the son and grandson of soldiers. The Army is his life. He has just been transferred from Panama to Ft. Bird, NC. It’s New Year's Eve, 1990 – the Berlin Wall in falling and the Soviet Union is failing. How will the Army react to the loss of their current enemy? Reacher is called out to investigate the death of a two star General in a seedy motel. The death is ruled a heart attack, but his briefcase is missing, and with it the agenda for a meeting of top Generals of the Armored Divisions based in Europe. When Reacher and his aide, Lt. Summer, drive to Virginia to break the news to the General’s wife, they discover she is also dead, bludgeoned with a crowbar. Then the vicious butchery of a Delta Force soldier occurs on base, but Jack’s newly transferred in boss tells him to report it as a “training accident.”
He soon discovers that 20 of the best and brightest of his cohorts have been transferred the same day. This leads to all sorts of interesting questions like “Who has the power to transfer 20 of the Army’s top cops?” In the middle of this, Jack gets a call from his brother – their mother is dying in Paris.
Jack and Lt. Summer travel in search of clues, to Germany, back to Virginia, South Carolina, back to North Carolina, DC and then California. This is very much a police procedural with the duo following wherever the clues lead him, while trying to stay ahead of their Commanding Officer, who declares them AWOL. The culprits are fairly easy to figure out -- it’s nailing down the evidence that’s difficult. Jack delivers a somewhat shocking brand of his own justice at the very end of the book.
I grew up on military bases, just like Jack, and the descriptions of Army life are accurate. This book is more of a mystery than his later books, which I understand are better described as thrillers. However, I couldn’t put the book down until the end and stayed up until the early hours of dawn. So if you enjoy a good mystery with crackling suspense, try the Jack Reacher novels of Lee Child. There is also a new movie out in December starring Tom Cruise as Reacher; quite a stretch as Reacher is described as 6’ 5” and Cruise is 5’ 7”. But, hey, that’s why they call it acting.