The 8th book in Child’s Jack Reacher series is a flashback, a prequel, set in Reacher’s days of employment with the U.S. Army. He is an MP (military police) major and it’s New Year’s Eve, 1989. The Berlin Wall has just come down, Soviet Russia is collapsing, and the U.S. military is facing major changes. Reacher has just been transferred from Panama to Fort Bird in North Carolina when people start dying. He enlists the help of young Lieutenant Summer and the two of them quickly find themselves drawing outside the lines – the military establishment repeatedly orders them off the case, makes threats, and finally demands their arrest. As we expect of Reacher, though, he solves the crimes and fixes everybody up right.
This is fun for several reasons. We finally see Reacher on the job. We see him and his brother Joe interacting; Joe is only treated in the past tense in the other books. (Well, there is the short story The Second Son also, in which the brothers are teenagers.) We meet Reacher’s mother and learn something about her past that her sons never knew; this is an especially poignant moment.
A few things are different in this book, too. For one thing, Reacher does fix up the problems and solve the mysteries; but it doesn’t end on quite as hopeful a note as the other books tend to. In his retired, roaming life, Reacher generally sets off into the sunset at the end of the book, headed for unknown adventures, with a world of possibilities ahead of him. At the end of The Enemy, he’s still in the army, but things have changed irrevocably; the end of his career is foreshadowed, and we begin to understand why he chose to get out. There’s a sadness. He wasn’t able to right all the wrongs. Something that’s not different in this book: I’m sad to see Summer go. But the characters we come to love in each book are always necessarily gone at the end; Reacher moves on.
Suspension of disbelief is necessary in every Reacher book; he’s too good, too strong, too smart, too perfectly-timed and awesome to be real. But I have a good time and I can play along. This time I had a little more difficultly with the suspension of disbelief, though, because he went so far off the reservation while in the army. I’m accustomed to seeing him not play nice, but he’s usually a renegade wanderer; it’s a little more bizarre to see him be just as much a rebellious loner while he’s still in the military.
But putting that quibble aside, it’s a highly enjoyable book as usual, and fans of the series will appreciate the backstory and further character development (of Reacher, as well as his brother and mother) provided by this flashback.