Lee Child,
The Enemy
(Bantam, 2004)

This is the eighth Jack Reacher book, but chronologically it comes first in the series and opens on New Year's Eve, 1989.

The happy wanderer we've come to know and love is in the U.S. Army. He's a major with the 110th Special Unit, the military policemen who are paid to police other military policemen. But his world suddenly changes when, for no reason he can fathom, he's posted from Panama to an out-of-the-way spot back in the States. At first he shrugs it off, saying, "Orders are orders. The alternative is anarchy and chaos." But wherever Reacher goes after that there is anarchy and chaos.

All around him the world is changing. The Berlin Wall is down and the power struggle in Europe is changing. The Army is changing. His personal life is changing. And before you know it Reacher's wanted on at least two continents, by some very dangerous people. Of course, we know he'll survive -- he must, because there are eight books that say he will -- but it's not only the bad guys who get their come-uppance for past mistakes, and it's not an easy ride.

If this were an Enid Blyton tale it might be called The Case of the Missing Agenda, but, as devotees of the series will already know, there's not much that's Blyton-ish about Lee Child. There's blood and bone, and it may be some time before I want to eat strawberry yogurt again. The book's about more than violence, though. As well as the "choose up sides and do the right thing" theme there's an "everybody got somethin' to hide" theme -- including Jack's mum, Josephine. And the whole Reacher family sub-plot is a quiet but angsty interlude in Paris, a light touch in among the testosterone-fuelled army base action.

If you're a Reacher fan, you might want to be reassured of a few things. Even though Reacher's tied to the Army, he still manages to pack in a lot of traveling. The younger Reacher carries more than his toothbrush, but not much more, and those fans who worry about his state of dress will be happy to hear that he has several different uniforms. And he changes in and out of them. A lot.

If you're not already a fan, The Enemy is a fine introduction to the Reacher series. It's a pacy story, it's thoughtful and the hero's intriguing. Buckle up and enjoy.

- Rambles
written by Jean Lewis
published 5 June 2004

Buy it from Amazon.com.