on April 18, 2004
This is a complex thriller, and in it we see Jack Reacher a little differently than we have in previous outings. He has been asked by a woman who was involved with his now-dead brother to help her find weak spots in the Secret Service protection of a newly-elected Vice-President. This meeting with M.E. Froehlich opens up a little of Jack's history to us and the life that he and his older brother led while they were growing up as army brats in various army bases throughout the world. We also see Jack request the aid of a former co-worker from the army. Neagley is the female equivalent of Jack - brilliant, well-trained and oh so cool. Jack and Neagley make a formidable team. Not only do they find the weaknesses in the Secret Service protection detail, they hunt down and take retribution themselves on the bad guys that not only threatened the Vice-President, but who hurt and killed people who were close to them. Child's writing is spare and chilling. Yes there is violence, but it's not over-drawn and seems to flow as part of the story and helps build the terrible tension that is simmering throughout the whole book. His form of writing keeps the reader hurriedly turning pages to find out what happens next.
If you have read any of the Jack Reacher novels you know he's the ultimate outsider, someone who was an insider and now enjoys his freedom. In Without Fail, old ties bring him into contact with the Secret Service to protect the Vice President. Reacher finds himself tied down a bit too as his brother's ex-lover becomes attracted to the resemblances between them.
The premise of this book is strong. Take someone who is tough and resourceful and have them probe for security weaknesses. Reacher is obviously perfect for that role.
While focused on that premise, the book works well.
But it turns out there's a real threat . . . and it's frightening! In the beginning, this premise also works well. But the premise eventually breaks down into a series of plot twists that left me feeling disappointed with who the baddies are and why they are after the Vice President.
The book's ending is clearly the weakest part of the story. It's too bad. The book starts off quite strong.
If you don't like to read books that end weakly, I suggest you read the next book in the series, Persuader, instead. It's a much more satisfying offering.
on April 29, 2003
I'm attracted to Lee Child's novels because of the hardboiled and self-contained nature of his hero, Jack Reacher. After almost two decades as a military cop in the U.S. Army, Jack now wanders the U.S. with only the clothes on his back - no car, no charge cards - and a penchant for crossing paths with assorted villains. Very soon, the reader begins to feel sorry for the Bad Guys.
Reacher is so unpolished that one sometimes wonders how he reached officer grade O-4 (Major), which would imply managing a wardrobe, knotting a tie, and displaying minimal social skills in the officers' mess and at the CO's annual Christmas party. It's not that Jack is a Neanderthal; he just doesn't care to run with the rest of the lemmings anymore.
In WITHOUT FAIL, M.E. Froelich, who heads the Secret Service protection detail for the newly elected Vice President, Brook Armstrong, hires Reacher to audit the security of the new Veep's protective screen. Froelich is also the ex-girlfriend of Jack's dead brother. After finding holes through which a potential assassin could drive a monster SUV, Reacher learns why the Service really wants his help. The VP is receiving credible death threats. And it may be an inside job.
I would've awarded WITHOUT FAIL at least one more star had it not been a Jack Reacher adventure. But it is, and here our prickly protagonist has to play well with others: Froelich, her boss Stuyvesant, FBI guy Bannon, and a colleague from Reacher's old Army days, ex-Sergeant Frances Neagley. Reacher's talent for punitive violence is severely curtailed compared to past episodes, revealing itself only at the very beginning and the very end. In between, Jack is reduced to being a consultant, even to the point of wearing a suit. Say it ain't so, Lee!
The most interesting character is Neagley, now employed by a civilian security firm. She's ostensibly more deadly at physical combat than Reacher himself, and he admits to being afraid of her skills. So, the reader waits, hoping she'll unleash some mayhem. In the meantime, we learn that Frances, while being a little in love with her old military boss, has a severe dislike of being touched due to some unspecified trauma in her past. Unfortunately, Neagley remains mostly a cipher, and the entertainment value of her character is left pretty much unexploited. Perhaps she'll appear in a future Reacher novel. Better still, the author should give her a series of her own.
I hope the next Reacher thriller is JACK IS BACK. With a vengeance.
on June 8, 2004
Lee Child's "Without Fail" has a slightly different onset than his previous novels. Ex-MP major Jack Reacher, for once hasn't inadvertantly stumbled into a quagmire requiring his expertise and skills, he's being sought out. Secret Service agent M.E. Froelich is relentlessly pursuing him. Froelich, a former girlfriend of Reacher's deceased U.S, Treasury agent brother, Joe, has just been promoted to command the entourage sworn to protect Vice President elect Brook Armstrong. Apparently during pillow talk, Joe bragged that his younger brother Jack would be the perfect individual to test the efficiency of the protective Secret Service net surrounding a high ranking government figure.
Froelich, remembering Joe's boast and now being in a position to authorize this type of audit was seeking out Reacher. She ultimately convinces Reacher to secretly stalk the V.P. and try to uncover opportunities to broach security and do him harm. Reacher recruits ex-Army master sergeant and lethal and capable colleague Frances Neagley to work with him.
During their mission Reacher and Neagley discover that the audit was a charade. The Secret Service has apparently been infiltrated and there actually have been threats made on the life of V.P. elect Armstrong. At the urging of Froelich's boss, Agent Stuyvesant they join with the Secret Service to help eradicate this dangerous threat to security. Reacher fans can imagine what happens next!
Suffice to say that Lee Child is an extraordinary entertaining writer.
on August 28, 2003
The Secret Service classifies serious threats of assassination in two ways. They are separated into those assassins that want to commit the assassination and get away as compared to those that want to commit the assassination and are perfectly willing to die for it in the process. In either case, the Secret Service knows that if the assassin really wants to do it, then they can't be realistically stopped. M. E. Froelich knows this and she also knows that the Secret Service has never lost a Vice President. As team leader, guarding the newly elected Vice President Armstrong, she does not want to be the first. She has a plan and her boss has given the unprecedented okay to bring in outsiders.
"'I want to hire you for something," she said. "On a kind of posthumous recommendation from Joe. Because of what he used to say about you. He
talked about you, from time to time."
Reacher nodded. "Hire me for what?"
Froelich paused again and came up with a tentative smile.
"I've rehearsed this line," she said. "Couple of times."
"So let me hear it."
"I want you to assassinate the Vice President of the United States.'"
Actually, what she really wants is for him to use his military training and other skills and tell her if he could successfully get to Armstrong. By using the memory of his dead brother (who she worked with and was a lover) who at least on level was trying to emulate him as well as the fact that Reacher finds the exercise interesting, she gets him to agree to the attempt with specific goals and recommendations in mind for improvement. Reacher brings in Neagle with whom he has worked with before (see other novels in this series) and together they identify some manageable weaknesses in the plan.
Reacher explains the problems to the Froelich and then pushes her for the real reason he was brought in as the Service would never bring in outsiders unless they were very concerned. As it turns out, there is a credible threat against Armstrong's life. It is serious and seems to be coming from either a current or former agent of the Secret Service. Since almost everyone is under suspicion, Reacher and Neagle are asked to identify the threat and stop him or her while Froelich continues to coordinate her team's protection of the Vice President. Reacher and Neagle begin to chase the assassins across country and back again while Armstrong's life hangs in the balance until a fateful showdown in the snow in Wyoming.
As a parent of school age children, there are not that many books anymore that keep me up past midnight reading. Quite frankly, there aren't that many that can keep me up past ten anymore for that matter. However, this one did it and was thriller in every sense of the word. While it does not plow any new ground really in the Jack Reacher character development, we learn a few new things that reinforce the way he is while at the same time, having a heck of good twisting story to read. This novel has plenty of action and the last 50 pages are very good as Reacher takes care of business his way.
This novel is the sixth in the series featuring Jack Reacher. While this one, more than the others could be read as a stand alone, I would recommend otherwise. A few things are covered briefly in this novel that might diminish the reading pleasure of some of the other novels in the series. The first novel of the series is Killing Floor...This is one author definitely worth reading.
on May 24, 2003
Jack Reacher returns in this lengthy and compelling thriller revolving around the Secret Service. Upon the recommendation (and reputation) of his deceased brother - who was a former Treasury agent - Reacher is asked to perform a security audit on the Vice President's security detail. Ostensibly, the reason is simply to validate the new team's level of preparedness. But nothing is quite as it seems - and Reacher soon understands that there are very real, very imminent threats against the VP.
We encounter Neagley - another ex-Military Cop; Froelich, the talented (and attractive) head of the VP's Secret Service detail; Stuvesyant, Froelich's hard-edged boss and a cast of others. All in all, a pretty interesting lot. But, simply put, it is the storyline - not the characters - that stand out.
Unlike some of Child's previous works, the bad guys remain shrouded in mystery almost throughout. Tracking their steps along with the Federal Agents, we feel much of the same frustration, indignity, and anger that they feel. Ultra-competent, the would-be assassins are able to elude the perimeter defenses of the VP on multiple occasions. The tension mounts as the threats become more and more tangible, affecting other Secret Service employees and finally threatening the lives of the protaganists themselves.
Child has done an exceptional job. If you enjoy thrillers, find "Without Fail" today and move it to the top of your queue. Child definitely has not failed with this exceptional novel.
on May 17, 2003
With each Jack Reacher adventure, Lee Child allows us to learn a little more about this elusive all-American hero, filling in the details of man of few words, unselfconscious competence & a contentment wherein he finds himself, wherever that may be.
In this genre, happy heroes are far & few between. Don't get me wrong, Jack Reacher is no comedian nor a fatuous fellow! It's just that the things that bother everyone else don't bother him...no baggage, no guilt, no regrets. Perfect spook material.
In WITHOUT FAIL, Jack joins the team protecting the Vice President-elect, ostensibly as an advisor. Except he's recruited to do something quite different. He calls on his old military co-worker, the beautiful & deadly Frances Neagley, to cover his back.
When Jack learns about the threatening letters, everything changes. Not soon enough, he sees how the security tapes are lying, & that likely suspects are totally innocent. Too soon two men, resembling the Veep in remarkable details, are killed & a compelling chase from the Beltway into the Wild West, ricochets like a bullet from a silenced rifle.
Top notch reading with a little love, lots of insights, & loads of action.
on April 21, 2003
This book is action packed and has entertainment galore, for men mostly, but for women also who like James Bond type stories of hidden assassins and detailed descriptions of weapons and ammo. A plot has been set to assassinate the Vice-President elect of the United States. The why is answered at the end of the story, but only one Secret Service man is aware of the plot. Someone has infiltrated that elite group, and now there's only one man in the entire world who can capture the would-be assassin. Jack Reacher, brother of Joe Reacher, a former Secret Service Agent now deceased (although we never find out how Joe died), is an "outsider", hired to play the role of an assassin, to find the loopholes and the errors in the Secret Service's plans to protect the Vice President-elect Brook Armstrong. Jack Reacher does a great job, but why and who wants to asassinate Armstrong?Is there a secret in his past? It's time to find out. Good plot, well developed characters, action packed, but just not my kind of book. Perhaps you will enjoy it better.
on April 15, 2003
This mystery is written with intelligence, knowledge and compassion. The bad guys have a reason to be bad. Of course they overdo it. And the good guys are very human, not robot or killing machines.
At the center is Brook Armstrong, newly elected Vice President waiting for the inauguration. And then arrives a threatening letter, intercepted by the Secret Service. Stuyvesant, the leader for the job of finding those who keep threatening Armstrong, puts M. E. Froehlich in charge. At age 35, she is a seasoned investigator. But she does accept the help of former agent Jack Reacher and his helpmate Neagley; she is now a private detective. The human factor is Froehlich who used to be in love with Joe, Ranchers older brother. But Joe dumped her some years ago and is now dead. But his brother Jack looks and acts too much like Joe for Froehlich to ignore it.
The threatening letter keep coming in. How are they delivered? Should they be taken seriously? Who on earth could have sent them? Slowly the mystery unravels while Armstrong gets ever closer to getting killed.
It is a good book, not your usual sloppy potboiler. I recommend it for relaxation.
on January 20, 2003
NOTE - SPOILERS AHEAD. I am stunned that no other reviewer has mentioned the fundamental flaw of this book. This is a mystery - who is trying to kill the vice-president? Like any good mystery it invites the reader to sleuth along with the investigators. The reader rightly expects that the bad guy is a character in the book; the question is, which one? But in this book, the bad guys are not characters in the book, they simply drop from the heavens once the story is 90 percent finished, leaving the reader feeling fundamentally cheated. I found this doubly disappointing because I had thought that Child understood this rule - Tripwire, for example, was a near to a perfect mystery as I have read. It leaves the reader with the sense that all of the clues were there, and had he just thought about them harder, he could have solved this, too. It is too bad, because Jack Reacher is indeed a great, escapist fiction character, and Child has a flair for research, economical writing and complex plotting. But one more book like this and I will give up on this series!