This 16th book in the series goes back to 1997, when Jack Reacher was an army MP (military police). A young woman named Janice Chapman has been raped and viciously murdered in the town of Carter Crossing, Mississippi - just outside Fort Kelham Army Base. The army brass, fearing a soldier may be blamed, sends two military cops to look into the case. One is sent to Fort Kelham, presumably to discover if a soldier committed the crime. At the same time Jack Reacher is sent to Carter Crossing, posing as a civilian. His job is to see what local law enforcement is doing about the crime and hopefully to deflect attention from the army.
Carter Crossing's sheriff, the beautiful Elizabeth Deveraux, rumbles Jack immediately. She's a former Marine, and she knows a military cop when she sees one. Eventually Jack and the sheriff team up to investigate the rape/murder and Jack learns that Janice is not the first victim. Two other women have been killed in a similar fashon, but - because they were black - their deaths didn't attract much attention. It seems clear that a serial killer is at work in Carter Crossing.
The army is desperate to keep Fort Kelham out of the news for a number of reasons: some army units stationed there are regularly deployed to Kosovo, a fact unknown to the public; and one of Fort Kelham's high-ranking officers is the son of a powerful U.S. Senator. Thus the army would much prefer the serial killer to be a civilian, and certain officers are willing to go to great lengths to prove this is the case. Jack Reacher is honest to the core, however, and won't stand for any misrepesentation of the truth.
There's plenty of action going on in the story: two more people are shot to death; Jack has violent altercations with some Carter Crossing rednecks; there's some romance; Jack eats many cheeseburgers and a lot of pie; Jack has altercations with soldiers sent to detain him; Jack has altercations with self-styled militias; and much more. The book's plot is engaging, the characters are interesting, and Jack does a masterful job of detection. Though some officers try to pull the wool over Jack's eyes he is a very smart guy who figures out exactly what's going on.
My major criticism of the book is that it could have been 75 to 100 pages shorter. Some scenes are much too drawn out. At the beginning of the book for example, Jack walks into the Pentagon, and it takes (what seems like) forever for Jack to get from the building's entrance to a General's office. Each of Jack's footsteps is described in excruciating detail, as is every single person he passes, what they're wearing, their demeanor, their shoes, etc. Several other scenes in the book follow this same pattern, which is irritating and boring.
Overall, however, this is a good story that I would recommend for fans of action/thrillers and for fans of Jack Reacher.
Rating: 3.5 stars