Sunday, October 26, 2008

Lee Child: The Enemy

In my continuing effort to understand the source of Jack Reacher’s financial independence, I picked up a copy of Lee Child’s The Enemy. It is the prequel to the Reacher books. Unfortunately, it did not resolve the mystery. Fortunately, it was still a fun book – as I knew it would be.

In this case Reacher is still in the Army as a Major in the MPs. The Berlin Wall is coming down; Reacher has been in Panama trying to catch Noriega. But shortly before the book begins, Reacher was transferred to Fort Bird, North Carolina. Neither he, nor his boss know why.

When Reacher is notified that a soldier has died of a heart attack off post, he assumes that it is routine. But he quickly learns that the soldier was Major General Kramer, and that he died in a sleazy motel, apparently in the act of intercourse. With a briefcase missing, things stop being routine. Worse yet, the general’s wife is killed at their home in Virginia a few hours later. The general is stationed in West Germany, apparently en route to a conference in California. What was he doing in a sleazy motel in North Carolina?

Just as the investigation gets going, Reacher’s boss is transferred and replaced by the incompetent politically slick Colonel Willard. Willard orders him to drop the investigation. Further, when a Special Forces sergeant is found, obviously murdered, on post, Willard orders Reacher to write it up as a training accident.

Internal politics abound as various factions anticipate big changes in the Army as the Cold War is winding down. Two of General Kramer’s aids are running around sticking their noses into everything. Civilian authorities are interested in both off post deaths, although particularly the Mrs. Kramer’s.

So we have Jack Reacher bulling his way through political minefields, civilian relations, and direct orders to leave things alone. But Reacher is not much of a “leave it alone” sort of guy. As always, Child’s dialog is terse and blunt. Reacher is unstoppable, but does make bad turns and wrong assumptions along he way. He also manages to find some female companionship along the way.

I’m glad I read The Enemy. It was fun to see Jack Reacher in uniform. It was unique to see him carrying luggage and owning spare uniforms. But I still don’t understand how he meets his expenses in later books. I can’t see a military severance lasting that long, even though his tastes are rather simple.

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