He strolls past a pawn shop in America’s Midwest and spots a graduation ring from West Point, the US military academy in New York where he honed his own skills. An engraving reads SRS 2005 and the ring is so small it does not even fit on his pinky so he concludes that it belonged to a woman. He instantly decides to track down the mystery military woman who sold it and find out why her life hit rock bottom.
As the chase gathers pace he travels to South Dakota and then Wyoming and inevitably encounters some annoying villains on the road, some of whom are knocked senseless by his giant fists.
Child’s tight, clipped prose builds up the tension, helped along by Reacher’s trademark one-word sentences. But there is a change of pace halfway through with Child seeming unsure where to take the plot. It meanders aimlessly for several chapters before he gets a grip on it.
Reacher thought he was going to save a former army damsel in distress but when he tracks down the owner of the ring, he finds a scared, depressed wreck of a woman, hiding in an eerily remote spot in the middle of nowhere, relying on illegal opiate painkillers to get her through each day.
Reacher develops as a character as he wrestles with himself, working out the best plan of action now that he has gatecrashed a tragic woman’s life. He finds himself confronting the issue of how society treats returning soldiers injured in conflicts which many now view as morally dubious, if not illegal.
The question of who society protects and who it turns its back on is clearly an issue that vexes Child and it makes this one of the most engrossing sections of the book.
But for the diehard fans in need of their Reacher fix, there are still plenty of fist fights and the flash of guns in a book that is difficult to put down before dawn.