It’s New Year’s Eve, just on the cusp of a new decade, 1990, and military police officer Major Jack Reacher has just arrived at his new command after being inexplicably reassigned. He doesn’t have time to enjoy rolling in the new year though because before he’s even settled he gets a call from the local cops. A general has been found dead in a cheap motel room, apparently of a heart attack. The situation seems hinky to Reacher, but what can you do? Even general officers might have liaisons in cheap hotel rooms. At least he went out with a bang. But when the general’s wife is found murdered in her home and other seemingly unrelated murders start occurring, Reacher knows something is dirty. With the help of a young, female MP lieutenant, Reacher uncovers a plot that extends into the highest ranks of army hierarchy.
The Enemy is Lee Child’s eighth Jack Reacher book and now that I’ve read it I’m done with the entire run of novels until Personal comes out in September. I guess I’ll have to read some of the short stories to tide me over. Anyway, I would have preferred to have completed the run of novels on a high note since I really enjoy these Jack Reacher books in general, but The Enemy, while starting off promisingly, managed to be one of the weaker novels in the series.
As mentioned in the synopsis above, The Enemy is one of those Reacher novels that go back to his army days and it’s written in a first person perspective. It’s always kind of fun to see what Reacher was like in the old days, but as I have mentioned before in other reviews, Child does not write convincingly about the U.S. Army. I guess it doesn’t really matter, but a lot of it comes across as kind of goofy, like driving around in humveess all the time rather than a GSA vehicle (oh, and humvees don’t have a “big red start button”; it’s a switch). It’s like if you’re a medical professional and you’re watching some TV show where the doc stabs the patient in the heart with a giant syringe of atropine and says “Live, dammit!” and you’re like, “Noooo…come on.” It’s like that. But I guess I don’t mind the inaccuracies too much. I just kind of correct things in my mind as I read.
But even though Reacher has made a career of the military, with all the rules and regulations it’s not his best environment. Reacher doesn’t do rules and I like him best as a wandering loner. And the plot of The Enemy didn’t really capitalize on Reacher’s particular talent for causing all kinds of physical mayhem and violence. Of course we know that Reacher’s a pretty clever fellow, but let’s be honest. We all like to see him bust some heads. There is little head busting in The Enemy. The plot mostly involves Reacher and Summer (the female MP lieutenant) checking things out and following up leads. That, in itself, is okay, but the mystery they’re solving is just so convoluted and far-fetched that it’s a little preposterous.
There are, however, some good moments, like when a hungry Reacher urges Lt. Summer to ask a nun if she’s going to finish her in-flight meal, or Reacher’s funny (but juvenile) way of dispensing justice to the main bad guy in the end. The Enemy also incorporates a significant event in Reacher’s life, the death of his mother by cancer and he and his brother Joe must come to terms with that.
The verdict: ★★★✩✩ (3/5 stars). The Enemy is not the strongest Jack Reacher book, but is a serviceable mystery. Though it’s light on action and the coherency of the plot is questionable, Reacher’s humanity is highlighted as he deals with the death of his mother and this part for me made up for the rest of the novel’s shortcomings.