This is the book that introduced Lee Child's popular character, Jack Reacher in 1997. Reacher is a former military cop who's been made redundant by the end of the cold war. After spending his entire life in the military (Reacher grew up in a military family), he's now completely on his own, footloose and fancy-free. After spending much of his life abroad, he's wandering about the country, getting to know the U.S. up close and personal. As will continue to be the case, Reacher travels light, with nothing more than the clothes on his back, paying cash, traveling by bus and staying off the grid.
On a whim, Reacher has a bus driver drop him off at the interchange for tiny Margrave, Georgia. Reacher has heard a story about an ancient Blues man who once spent time in the town and decides to check it out. He walks fourteen miles into town, orders a cup of coffee in a diner, and is promptly arrested for murder.
Reacher knows that he hasn't killed anyone, at least not in Margrave and not for some time, so he's obviously mystified. He soon discovers that there are a lot of weird things going on in this tiny, pristine town where the townfolk, or at least a good number of them, are harboring some strange secrets. Reacher couldn't care less. He just wants to get clear of the murder charges, get back on the bus, and resume his wandering life. But he quickly develops a personal stake in the murder case, which is decidedly bad news for the evildoers.
Before long, the bodies are piling up left and right, and Reacher is contributing more than his fair share to the carnage. This is a cleverly-plotted book, although it does depend on a coincidence that's almost too huge to swallow. Still, it's a fun read that sets the template for the future books in the series. This is essentially "Shane" brought forward into the Twentieth (and now the Twenty-first) century. Jack Reacher is the mysterious stranger with something approaching mystical powers, who rides into a troubled town, albeit on a Greyhound rather than a horse. He cleans up the town, disposes of the bad guys, dallies briefly with a beautiful, sexy woman that he will have to abandon in the end, and then, once his job is done, he rides off into the sunset.
What's not to like? The formula has worked very well through sixteen books now, and Jack Reacher has become an international favorite. Those who have somehow missed him would do well to start with Killing Floor.