In the taut, staccato style reminiscent of Raymond Chandler or John D. MacDonald, Lee Child presents his eighth Jack Reacher novel, a police procedural with a difference: Reacher is an MP, an army Major at Fort Bird, North Carolina, obedient to a different set of rules and objectives. Recently transferred from Panama to be MP Executive Officer, Reacher must immediately investigate the death of a two-star general who has died in a seedy, nearby motel, presumably with a prostitute. His briefcase, containing the agenda for a top-secret conference in California, has disappeared, and when Reacher and his aide, Lt. Summer, go to break the news to the general's wife, they find her dead, too, bludgeoned to death with a crowbar within hours of the general's death.
With almost military precision, dramatic complications unfold, and Reacher soon finds himself facing two new deaths, one of which is a gruesome butchering which takes place on the base. Ordered by superiors to cover up the murder by calling it a "training accident," Reacher and his aide investigate surreptitiously, soon discovering that his MP XO counterparts at twenty more bases throughout the world have also been newly appointed to their positions, all of them on or around December 29. Obvious questions arise about who is pulling the strings, who has the power to transfer so many MPs to new posts, and why someone would want to do so.
Child is a meticulous writer whose plot follows a strict chronological order and moves at a breath-taking pace, with one dramatic scene following hard on the heels of another. Reacher and his aide Summer are not fully developed characters, but they do not need to be as they struggle to learn who is controlling the grisly chess game which has resulted in four deaths. The action is resolved in an extravagant grand finale, with twists and turns and spectacular surprises. Though the ending resolves the disparate threads, it may also be a disappointment to some readers, since the premise behind the plot and the motivation which led to the murders, when finally revealed, seems too unrealistic to justify the murderous extremes to which "the enemy" has gone. Though Child is brilliant in creating an exciting story packed with action, the final pages feel cynical and reveal a view of humanity that is grim. Mary Whipple