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The Enemy by Lee Child


Rating: (Mildly Recommended)


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Bad Apples

The slow pace of Lee Child’s new Jack Reacher novel, The Enemy, may drive some readers a little crazy. For a thriller, there’s a lot more exposition, dialogue and description than seemed to be needed to move the story along. Despite that problem, The Enemy will please Reacher fans who have wanted to read more from his Army days. In this novel, a few Army bad apples cause a lot of trouble, and Reacher finds himself in the thick of things with no winning way out. Here’s an excerpt from chapter 2, pp. 24-30:


           I put my own Class As on again and called the motor pool for a sedan. I didn’t want to ride all the way to Virginia in a Humvee. Too noisy, too uncomfortable. A private brought me a new olive-green Chevrolet. I signed for it and drove it around to post headquarters and waited.

Lieutenant Summer came out halfway through the twenty-eighth minute of her allotted thirty. She paused a second and then walked toward the car. She looked good. She was very short, but she moved eas­ily, like a willowy person. She looked like a six-foot catwalk model re­duced in size to a tiny miniature. I got out of the car and left the driver’s door open. Met her on the sidewalk. She was wearing an expert sharp­shooter badge with bars for rifle, small bore rifle, auto rifle, pistol, small bore pistol, machine gun, and submachine gun hanging on it. They made a little ladder about two inches long. Longer than mine. I only have rifle and pistol. She stopped dead in front of me and came to attention and fired off a perfect salute.

“Sir, Lieutenant Summer reports,” she said.

“Take it easy’ I said. “Informal mode of address, OK? Call me Reacher, or nothing. And no saluting. I don’t like it.”

She paused. Relaxed.

“OK,” she said.

I opened the passenger door and started to get in.

“I’m driving?” she asked.

“I was up most of the night.”

“Who died?”

“General Kramer’ I said. “Big tank guy in Europe.”

She paused again. “So why was he here? We’re all infantry.”

“Passing through,” I said.

She got in on the other side and racked the driver’s seat all the way forward. Adjusted the mirror. I pushed the passenger seat back and got as comfortable as I could.

“Where to?” she said.

Green Valley, Virginia,” I said. “It’ll be about four hours, I guess.”

“That’s where the widow is?”

“Home for the holidays,” I said.

“And we’re breaking the news? Like, Happy New Year, ma’am, and by the way, your husband’s dead?”

I nodded. “Lucky us.” But I wasn’t really worried. Generals’ wives are as tough as they come. Either they’ve spent thirty years pushing their husbands up the greasy pole, or they’ve endured thirty years of fallout as their husbands have climbed it for themselves. Either way, there’s not much left that can get to them. They’re tougher than the generals, most of the time.

Summer took her cap off and tossed it onto the backseat. Her hair was very short. Almost shaved. She had a delicate skull and nice cheek­bones. Smooth skin. I liked the way she looked. And she was a fast driver. That was for damn sure. She clipped her belt and took off north like she was training for NASCAR.

“Was it an accident?” she asked.

“Heart attack,” I said. “His arteries were bad.”

“Where? Our VOQ?”

I shook my head. “A crappy little motel in town. He died with a twenty-dollar hooker wedged somewhere underneath him.”

“We’re not telling the widow that part, right?”

“No, we’re not. We’re not telling anyone that part.”

“Why was he passing through?”

“He didn’t come to Bird itself. He was transiting D.C. Frankfurt to Dulles, then National to LAX twenty hours later. He was going out to Irwin for a conference.”

“OK,” she said, and then she went very quiet. We drove on. We got about level with the motel, but well to the west, heading straight for the highway

“Permission to speak freely?” she said.

“Please,” I said.

“Is this a test?”

“Why would it be a test?”

“You’re from the 110th Special Unit, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” I said. “I am.”

“I have an application pending.”

“To the 110th?”

“Yes,” she said. “So, is this a covert assessment?”

“Of what?”

“Of me,” she said. “As a candidate.”

“I needed a woman partner. In case the widow is a hugger. I picked you out at random. The captain with the busted arm couldn’t have driven the car. And it would be kind of inefficient for us to wait until we had a dead general to conduct personnel assessments.”

“I guess,” she said. “But I’m wondering if you’re sitting there waiting for me to ask the obvious questions.”

“I’d expect any MP with a pulse to ask the obvious questions, whether or not they had a special unit transfer pending:’

“OK, I’m asking. General Kramer had a twenty-hour layover in the D.C. area and he wanted to get his rocks off and he didn’t mind paying for the privilege. So why did he drive all the way down here to do it? It’s what, three hundred miles?”

“Two hundred and ninety-eight,” I said.

“And then he’d have to drive all the way back.”


“So why?”

“You tell me,” I said. “Come up with something I haven’t thought of myself and I’ll recommend you for the transfer.”

“You can’t. You’re not my CO.”

“Maybe I am,” I said. “This week, anyway”

“Why are you even here? Is something happening I should know about?”

“I don’t know why I’m here’ I said. “I got orders. That’s all I know.”

“Are you really a major?”

“Last time I checked,” I said.

“I thought 110th investigators were usually warrant officers. Work­ing plain clothes or undercover.”

“They usually are.”

“So why bring you here when they could send a warrant officer and have him dress up as a major?”

“Good question,” I said. “Maybe one day I’ll find out.”

“May I ask what your orders were?”

“Temporary detached duty as Fort Bird’s Provost Marshal’s executive officer.”

“The Provost Marshal isn’t on-post,” she said.

“I know,” I said. “I found that out. He transferred out the same day I transferred in. Some temporary thing.”

“So you’re acting CO.” “Like I said.”

“MP XO isn’t a special unit job,” she said.

“I can fake it,” I said. “I started out a regular MP, just like you.” Summer said nothing. Just drove.

“Kramer,” I said. “Why did he contemplate a six-hundred-mile round-trip? That’s twelve hours’ driving time out of his twenty. Just to spend fifteen bucks on a room and twenty on a whore?”

“Why does it matter? A heart attack is a heart attack, right? I mean, was there any question about it?”

I shook my head. “Walter Reed already did the autopsy”

“So it doesn’t really matter where or when it happened.”

“His briefcase is missing.”

“I see,” Summer said.

I saw her thinking. Her lower eyelids flicked upward a fraction.

“How do you know he had a briefcase?” she said.

“I don’t. But did you ever see a general go to a conference without one?”

“No,” she said. “You think the hooker ran off with it?” I nodded. “That’s my working hypothesis right now.”

“So, find the hooker.” “Who was she?” Her eyelids moved again.

“Doesn’t make sense,” she said. I nodded again. “Exactly”

“Four possible reasons Kramer didn’t stay in the D.C. area. One, he might have been traveling with fellow officers and didn’t want to embar­rass himself in front of them by having a hooker come to his room. They might have seen her in the corridor or heard her through the walls. So he invented an excuse and stayed in a different place. Two, even if he was traveling alone he might have been on a DoD travel voucher and he was paranoid about a desk clerk seeing the girl and calling The Washington Post. That happens. So he preferred to pay cash in some anonymous dive. Three, even if he wasn’t on a government ticket he might have been a well-known guest or a familiar face in a big-city hotel. So likewise he was looking for anonymity somewhere out of town. Or four, his sexual tastes ran beyond what you can get from the D.C. Yellow Pages, so he had to go where he knew for sure he could get what he wanted.”


“Problems one, two, and three could be answered by going ten or fifteen miles, maybe less. Two hundred and ninety-eight is completely excessive. And whereas I’m prepared to believe there are tastes that can’t be satisfied in D.C., I don’t see how they’re more likely to be satisfied way out here in the North Carolina boonies, and anyway I would guess such a thing would cost a lot more than twenty bucks wherever you eventu­ally found it.”

“So why did he take the six-hundred-mile detour?”

She didn’t answer. Just drove, and thought. I closed my eyes. Kept them closed for about thirty-five miles.

“He knew the girl,” Summer said. I opened my eyes. “How?”

“Some men have favorites. Maybe he met her a long time ago. Fell for her, in a way It can happen like that. It can almost be a love thing.”

“Where would he have met her?”

“Right there.”

“Bird is all infantry. He was Armored Branch.”

“Maybe they had joint exercises. You should check back.”

I said nothing. Armored and the infantry run joint exercises all the time. But they run them where the tanks are, not where the grunts are. Much easier to transport men across a continent than tanks.

“Or maybe he met her at Irwin,” Summer said. “In California. Maybe she worked Irwin, but had to leave California for some reason, but she liked working military bases, so she moved to Bird.”

“What kind of a hooker would like working military bases?”

“The kind that’s interested in money. Which is all of them, presum­ably. Military bases support their local economies in all kinds of ways.”

I said nothing.

“Or maybe she always worked Bird, but followed the infantry to Irwin when they did a joint exercise out there one time. Those things can last a month or two. No point in hanging around at home with no customers.”

“Best guess?” I said.

“They met in California,” she said. “Kramer will have spent years at Irwin, on and off. Then she moved to North Carolina, but he still liked her enough to make the detour whenever he was in D.C.”

“She doesn’t do anything special, not for twenty bucks.”

“Maybe he didn’t need anything special.”

“We could ask the widow.”

Summer smiled. “Maybe he just liked her. Maybe she made damn sure he did. Hookers are good at that. They like repeat customers best of all. It’s much safer for them if they already know the guy”

I closed my eyes again.

“So?” Summer said. “Did I come up with something you didn’t think of?”

“No,” I said.



           I fell asleep before we were out of the state and woke up again nearly four hours later when Summer took the Green Valley ramp too fast. My head rolled to the right and hit the window.

“Sorry” she said. “You should check Kramer’s phone records. He must have called ahead, to make sure she was around. He wouldn’t have driven all that way on the off chance.”

“Where would he have called from?”

Germany,” she said. “Before he left.”

“More likely he used a pay phone at Dulles. But we’ll check.”


“You can partner with me.” She said nothing. “Like a test,” I said. “Is this important?”

“Probably not. But it might be. Depends what the conference is about. Depends what paperwork he was taking to it. He might have had the whole ETO order of battle in his case. Or new tactics, assessment of shortcomings, all kinds of classified stuff.”

“The Red Army is going to fold.”

I nodded. “I’m more worried about red faces. Newspapers, or televi­sion. Some reporter finds classified stuff on a trash pile near a strip club, there’ll be major embarrassment all around.”

“Maybe the widow will know. He might have discussed it with her:’

“We can’t ask her,” I said. “As far as she’s concerned he died in his sleep with the blanket pulled up to his chin, and everything else was kosher. Any worries we’ve got at this point stay strictly between me, you, and Garber.”

“Garber?” she said.

“Me, you, and him,” I said.

I saw her smile. It was a trivial case, but working it with Garber was a definite stroke of luck, for a person with a 110th Special Unit transfer pending.

The Enemy is a book that you can take to the beach, read for hour, take a swim, read again, put aside, and pick up later. Or, it’s perfect for an airplane trip.

Steve Hopkins, June 25, 2004


ã 2004 Hopkins and Company, LLC


The recommendation rating for this book appeared in the July 2004 issue of Executive Times

URL for this review: Enemy.htm


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