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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Enemy

Lee Child

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To purchase The Enemy

Title: The Enemy
Author: Lee Child
Genre: Novel
Written: 2004
Length: 464 pages
Availability: The Enemy - US
The Enemy - UK
The Enemy - Canada
Liste mortelle - France
Die Abschussliste - Deutschland
Il nemico - Italia
El enemigo - España
  • The eighth Jack Reacher novel

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Our Assessment:

B+ : solid (military-)police procedural, with a few silly excesses

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Entertainment Weekly A- 14/5/2004 R. Ascher-Walsh
The NY Times . 10/5/2004 Janet Maslin
The NY Times Book Rev. . 23/5/2004 Marilyn Stasio

  From the Reviews:
  • "Reacher remains engaging and charming in his own emotionally handicapped way, and Child again emerges as a worthy successor to Tom Clancy." - Rebecca Ascher-Walsh, Entertainment Weekly

  • "(M)ost of The Enemy concentrates on the widening military murder plot, and on defining Reacher as a determined enforcer. In a world full of changing boundaries and moral ambiguities, he emerges as a classic noir loner, and a very charismatic one, despite his willingness and ability to inflict damage on those who he thinks deserve it. It is worth underscoring that these books, while crackling with assertiveness, do not present Reacher as a loose cannon. They avoid the ugliness of an action hero with too free a hand." - Janet Maslin, The New York Times

  • "The clandestine investigation that Reacher carries out with strict military precision not only shows us how he acquired his organizational skills and deadly moves, it also tells us how he got to be the biggest misanthrope in a cynical genre." - Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Enemy is the eighth novel featuring Jack Reacher, but the series does not unfold chronologically and this installment looks back to earlier times. Here, Reacher isn't yet the loner crisscrossing the United States without any baggage or ties. The novel opens late New Year's Eve going into 1990, and Reacher is still in the army, a twenty-nine-year-old major in the Military Police, recently stationed in Panama as part of Operation Just Cause (to take down Manuel Noriega) but just a few days earlier reassigned to Fort Bird, North Carolina -- technically as the Provost Marshal's executive officer, but since he was transferred out the same day Reacher was transferred in, Reacher is the acting MP CO on the large base.
       Reacher is used to being redeployed at the drop of a dime, and he has certainly been around -- "I can only put together about five years' worth of actual residency in the continental U.S.". He's lived the military life from birth and, at this point, it's also completely natural for him to take it for granted: "I'm still in the military. I always will be." Readers, of course, already know better .....
       The Enemy begins with him being called to the scene of a death -- not on base, but of a two-star general, Kramer, in a motel, found in a somewhat compromising position. It looks like natural causes -- a heart attack just as he was getting ready to have sex -- but the circumstances, locale -- a motel in the middle of nowhere --, and the fact that his briefcase seems to be missing bother Reacher. And even if it was a natural death, finding the general's wife dead -- her head bashed in a few hours after her husband's untimely demise a few hundred miles away -- suggests that there's more to this. A lot more.
       A continent away, the Berlin Wall is coming down, and the times, they are a-changing. Clearly, what's happening abroad -- especially the surely imminent collapse of the Soviet Union -- also means great change for the military, and a lot of military types are getting nervous. Troop reductions and a variety of cut-backs are clearly in the offing -- if not immediately, still soon enough in the slow-moving world of the military.
       Change in a resistant and always slow to accept it military is a major theme of the novel. That fear of that looming larger change, of a reconstituted armed forces, is a significant one in the background throughout, but so are smaller ones, such as of integration -- racial (completed), of allowing women to serve (in process), and tolerating homosexuals (still a ways off at that time)
       Reacher doesn't go it alone here. Early on he latches onto Lieutenant Summer -- covering two of the military-integration-issues, as she is a woman and "had skin the same color as the mahogany table she was eating off" when he picks her; the homosexual angle is addressed elsewhere. Summer is twenty-five and not yet sure whether she is going to make the army her career, but she is capable and goes all-in with Reacher -- even when they go way outside the lines (as, eventually, they are of course forced by circumstances -- and the forces conspiring against them -- to do).
       Personnel matters matter a lot here: the man Reacher reports to is suddenly reassigned, too, and replaced by a stickler named Willard, who has his own ideas about the investigation and how everything should just quietly be tied up -- armed with the leverage that, hey, as it turns out, Reacher could easily be framed for some of what happened, his movements fitting (un)comfortably within the various time-frames. With yet another body -- a Delta sergeant, killed on base -- and too many connections to the other murders, Reacher isn't giving up so easily. And he warns Willard about (mis)directing the case(s):

     "You're wasting your time," I said. "And you're making a big mistake. Because you really don't want to make an enemy out of me."
       Willard foolishly doesn't listen -- and thinks he has all the cards. Among them: the hint -- to the Deltas on base -- that Reacher looks good for the killing of their colleague, which is enough to set them against him, and give him a week to clear his name or else ..... (Reacher understands what that means coming from the well-trained Deltas -- but, just in case, he is eventually presented with a bullet with his name on it, too, as an unsubtle reminder.)
       Reacher knows that the two-star general was on his way to a conference in California. Flying in some generals, on New Year's Eve, including from Europe, suggests it was an important one. And everyone knows that every conference like that has an agenda -- except that the people traveling with Kramer claim there wasn't one, which really worries Reacher ("It was completely stupid to say there wasn't. If they've got something to hide, they should have just said it's too secret for me to see", Reacher notes). That agenda is nowhere to be found -- but apparently worth killing for.
       There's also the matter of all those transfers, including Reacher's, especially all those on the 29th of December. The list of transferred is: "a major-league, heavy duty baker's dozen" -- and:
To shuffle that many specific individuals around on the same day took some kind of will and planning, and to do it during Just Cause took some kind of urgent motive.
       The different pieces suggest there's a conspiracy of sorts going on, with some very highly placed individuals involved. Reacher even has a good idea of who some of the participants are -- but figuring it all out (especially given the: "Elaborate misdirection" involved with some of the crimes) takes some work, and a while, and even then the evidence long remains frustratingly circumstantial.
       Typically (and typically oddly -- Child really likes to keep his protagonist on the move, covering ridiculous distances), Reacher travels a lot: there's lots of figuring out the mileage as he and Summer drive around the East Coast a lot, but he also flies to Europe three (!) times in the span of about two weeks -- and makes it out to California too. There's some family business too, as he gets together with his brother a couple of times, because of their mother, who lives in Paris (the reason for two of his round-trips to Europe); there's also a reveal about mom that comes as quite a surprise to Reacher, but also fits (all too well) in suggesting how the Reacher-persona came to be.
       There's the usual violence, too -- the trail of dead bodies, for one, escalating from the heart-attack victim to some pretty gruesome stuff very fast, but also Reacher doing what he feels is necessary. Some of this is reasonable, some almost amusing -- there's that time he and Summer get arrested, but Reacher really, really needs freedom of movement, and so he ... extricates himself from that situation, in a way that also ensures that the arresting officers won't make too much of a fuss (though they sure as hell will remain ticked off at him) --, and some very, very dubious, as Reacher's moral compass is righteous but just a bit problematic in the end (a one-two punch of him accepting responsibility for something so as not to tarnish a reputation, though everyone wants to let it slide, and then him dealing with one last loose end). The final showdown with the perpetrator is also rather silly -- for one, because Reacher goes off (literally into the wild West) to face him all by himself (and with a borrowed sidearm), which surely has to be against any and all protocol. It's an over-the-top flourish that really heaps it unnecessarily on; a quieter resolution would have been much more in keeping with the rest of the story.
       The various excesses -- the travel, the violence, the conspiracy, etc. -- are the only major flaw to an otherwise very good thriller. The Enemy starts off very impressively, but the plot does tie itself into some knots -- but step by step, and clipped exchange after exchange and confrontation after confrontation, Child writes a mean fast-paced novel. Reacher-in-the-military works very well, as Child is particularly good on the relationships -- the contributing factor of a strict hierarchy (which MPs are somewhat free of, as they are empowered, theoretically, to arrest anyone, regardless where they are on the military food-chain) especially well navigated here. Competent associates -- Reacher's office assistant, and especially Summer -- and the general ability to rely on how the military functions (generally smoothly, if always -- for better and worse -- bureaucratically), as well as others who know what they're doing (including the owner of a hardware store) also work well for the story -- as do the bunglers. Some things work less well -- the menacing Deltas; the final blow-out confrontation -- but on the whole The Enemy is a very satisfying thriller.
       Reacher may be best known as the go-it-(more-or-less-)alone loner, and even in this story from his army days he acts true to form in a lot of ways, but Child (and his protagonist) work very well within these organizational constraints. The Enemy is a fine thriller, and a very good Reacher-novel.

- M.A.Orthofer, 30 October 2018

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The Enemy: Reviews: Lee Child: Other books by Lee Child under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       British author Lee Child was born in 1954.

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