By tvnz.co.nz's Steph Zajkowski Published: Thursday September 29, 2011
It's 1997 - six months before the momentous events of The Killing Floor , Child's first novel in the series.
It takes a bit of adjustment to wind the clock back on the Reacher of your mind's eye - this Jack is a young, energetic 36 year old. (And ladies, it's only fair to let you know early on, that this is the novel in which Jack gets some action of the romantic kind, QUITE a lot of it, actually!)
As a major in the military police, he's send undercover to Carter Crossing, Mississippi, where a series of murders has taken place in the shadow of a big army base.
Here, Child has fun with the reader as we see the origin of so many 'Reacherisms'; our straight-laced, spit and polish soldier must morph into a drifter who slides into town.
He settles on the method acting approach, buying clothes at the goodwill store, (which he later discards, rather than washing). He is pleased to find a 'half-size travel toothbrush' which he carries inside his top pocket. If it's cold, he figures he will roll his sleeves down. If it's too hot, he'll push them up. He leaves the base with his 'new' old clothes, his toothbrush, a roll of bills and a packet of gum. No ID, no wallet, no watch, no nothing. Although Jack doesn't know it now, this will be his modus operandi for the next 15 years...
Day one in Carter Crossing, Jack is rumbled by the county sheriff, who happens to be a stunningly gorgeous ex-Marine. Her investigation is going nowhere, but an alignment with Jack will prove to be a fruitful partnership - until Jack gets disturbing intelligence info that she may have her own motive for not finding the killer.
Child has also woven plenty of Jack's army buddies into this story, some of whom have guest-starred in previous novels (in 'future' roles!) MP Frances Neagley, who we met in Without Fail and Bad Luck and Trouble, has his back while he is undercover, quaintly feeding him crucial info (via the diner phone) about a potential Pentagon cover-up. Another to feature is Reacher's CO General Leon Gerber, who assisted Jack in Die Trying and willed him his house.
As for the storyline itself, it's standard Reacher fare, with the full quota of guns, fights and great lines. One of my personal favourites - "He fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch".
I don't need to urge anyone to go buy this book; it will fly off shelves within minutes of being released without any prompting from this reviewer. Because when you love Reacher as much as we fans do- you'll crawl over broken glass to get your hands on a copy!
A quick footnote: look out for two names in the novel, Paul Evers and Bruce Lindsay. These two Cantabrians won the chance to be named by Lee as characters in his much-anticipated new book.
The Affair by Lee Child
Publisher: Random House