Jack Reacher may be an acquired taste, but fans of Lee Child will not be disappointed in this latest adventure, although Reacherís usual violent nature is held in check through most of the book, giving readers a more subtle appreciation of this protagonistís abilities.
It takes someone with superior reconnaissance skills and above-average intelligence to tackle the sinister men who people Jack Reacher novels. A military outlaw of sorts, ex-Agency, Reacherís methods are more often brutal and unconventional than not, taking on the aberrant criminals who think outside the rules of engagement and act with impunity.
In Without Fail, Reacher is contacted by a former colleague/paramour of his deceased brother, hired to attempt an assassination of the vice-president elect in order to test the elaborate system of defense already in place by the Secret Service. Reacherís brother filled large shoes as well, killed five years earlier in the line of duty.
Although the two men had lost touch over the years, maintaining a careless approach to family ties, their emotional bonds were based in blood, their physical appearances eerily similar, a distraction to ME Froehlich, the recently appointed agent in charge of Secret Service operations to protect the new vice-president and former rejected lover of Jackís brother.
Reacher employs the aid of a retired colleague, Neagley, a woman as skillful as he in the field. It is their job to determine why and, by association, who is posing a threat to the life of the new vice-president. The action progresses in true Reacher style, an iconoclast caught in the machinations of a stubborn bureaucracy, faced with usual counter-productive the multi-agency obsession with privileged information.
The outrageous Jack Reacher finally appears at the end of the book, although his more nuanced incarnation is quite interesting, finally freed from the constraints of government agencies and acting on his own instincts in a series of elaborate plot devices that snap shut, one by one, in a climatic denouement.
In true renegade fashion, Reacher resurfaces just in time to strike at the would-be assassins in a dramatic cat-and-mouse ending, proving once again that Lee Child has his finger on the pulse of the anarchist American psyche.