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Without Fail: A Jack Reacher Novel    by Lee Child order for
Without Fail
by Lee Child
Order:  USA  Can
Jove, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The story begins with an assassination attempt against a public figure that not only fails, but goes wholly unnoticed. However, the reader knows that the assassins plan to try again. In parallel, Jack Reacher drifts through an uncluttered life, travelling from LA to Atlantic City, where he helps out an old black singer and her brother. There he's tracked down by his dead brother's old girlfriend, Secret Service agent M.E. Froelich, who hires him 'to assassinate the Vice President of the United States' - actually VP elect Brook Armstrong.

What she really wants is for him to uncover weaknesses in the net of protection around Armstrong, for whose safety she is responsible. Reacher takes it on and enlists old comrade in arms (both were US Army Criminal Investigation Division specialists) Frances Neagley, now working for a security firm, to help. After a few days, they give Froelich the bad news that it was easy; they had three clear opportunities to kill. Then, of course, they find out that there is much more going on than a security audit.

An escalating series of threats have mysteriously arrived at the Secret Service offices, and Froelich's boss hires outsiders Reacher and Neagley to find the insider connection. They alternate between investigation and assisting in protection as Armstrong makes public appearances. Is it a traitor within Treasury, foreign agents, or someone else, and what is the motivation? The plot thickens with ruthless attacks on innocents, as a romantic relationship develops between Froelich and Reacher, complicated by his brother Joe's ghost.

It's an intriguing thriller, though slow in pace, and the identity of the villains surprised me. Reacher is a fascinating character, well matched by Froelich and Neagley (the latter and he do not have a romantic relationship, but something is developing slowly between them) and the details of complexity of protection of a public figure are disturbing. I look forward to more Reacher adventures.

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