Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Jack Reacher Origins Story

This is the sixteenth Jack Reacher novel and it's among the best of them all. For the second time, Lee Child goes back to tell a story from earlier in Reacher's life and this is the Jack Reacher origin story. It takes place back in 1997, when Reacher was still in the Army. Reacher loves the Army and it's the only home he's ever known, even as a child, when he grew up a military brat. But the Army is now in trouble. The Cold War has ended; the war on terror is yet to begin, and budget cutters are looking to downsize the Army. Lots of positions could be lost, even that of a career military man like Reacher.

More immediately, the Army faces a potential crisis down in the backwoods of Mississippi. A scandal could be brewing there that would hit the Army hard at a time when it is already vulnerable. Reacher is assigned to head south incognito to work as the outside man in a two-man investigating team that will try to define and resolve the crisis. But their most important mission is to protect the Army no matter the cost. The assignment, though, is very vague and it's clear that Reacher's commanding officer expects him to do a lot of reading between the lines.

The crisis--whatever its real nature--has been triggered by the savage murder of a young woman in Carter Crossing, Mississippi, a tiny town that exists to serve an Army base with a somewhat mysterious purpose. The Army's apparent fear is that a military man will be exposed as the killer, triggering a major scandal at a time when the Army can least afford it.

Reacher makes his way to the little town, but his cover is blown immediately by the local sheriff, a very tough, smart, sexy ex-Marine named Elizabeth Deveraux. The two form a wary partnership and it quickly becomes apparent that a huge conspiracy may be at work here. But what is the conspiracy? Who's involved? And, most important, who can Reacher trust?

Reacher being Reacher, he is determined to ferret out the truth. Along the way, he'll have to beat the crap out of some local bad boys and he'll also have to sort out his relationship with Sheriff Deveraux. Reacher being Reacher, he will also attempt to mete out justice, however rough. The real question is whether he can do so in a way that serves his mission and his determination to protect the Army without destroying himself in the process.

This is really an excellent addition to the series, much more nuanced than some of the other entries with a plot that builds to a great climax. Reacher's fans are sure to love it and those who have not yet made his acquaintance would find this an excellent place to start.

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