Without Fail (Jack Reacher Series #6)by Lee Child
In Without Fail, Reacher is approached by a Secret Service agent who needs a favor. "I want to hire you to assassinate the Vice President of/i>/i>
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With each new book, more and more join the chorus of praise for "one of the most original and daring heroes in suspense fiction" (The Providence Journal-Bulletin), Lee Child's ex-military cop Jack Reacher.
In Without Fail, Reacher is approached by a Secret Service agent who needs a favor. "I want to hire you to assassinate the Vice President of the United States," she asks. She is the newly appointed head of the VP's security detail and wants Reacher to try to penetrate her team's shield. He has the skills and the stealth, and no one knows him. How else can she be sure her protection is truly effective?
What she doesn't tell Reacher-but what he soon discovers-is that a very determined and deadly team of assassins has just put the VP in its sights. These men have planned well, but they haven't planned on Reacher. For only Reacher has the head and the heart to corner his prey and bring them to justice-without fail.
Author Biography: Lee Child is the author of six award-winning Jack Reacher novels.
“Relentlessly paced...and absolutely mesmerizing.”—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Everything falls into place like a well-assembled time bomb.”—The Boston Globe
“A stunner...The suspense becomes nearly unbearable.”—Booklist
“The best thriller writer of the moment.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Times
Read an Excerpt
By Lee Child
G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS
Copyright © 2002 Lee Child.
All rights reserved.
They found out about him in July and stayed angry all through August. They tried to kill him in September. It was way too soon. They weren't ready. The attempt was a failure. It could have been a disaster, but it was actually a miracle. Because nobody noticed.
They used their usual method to get past security and set up a hundred feet from where he was speaking. They used a silencer and missed him by an inch. The bullet must have passed right over his head. Maybe even through his hair, because he immediately raised his hand and patted it back into place as if a gust of wind had disturbed it. They saw it over and over again, afterward, on television. He raised his hand and patted his hair. He did nothing else. He just kept on with his speech, unaware, because by definition a silenced bullet is too fast to see and too quiet to hear. So it missed him and flew on. It missed everybody standing behind him. It struck no obstacles, hit no buildings. It flew on straight and true until its energy was spent and gravity hauled it to earth in the far distance where there was nothing except empty grassland. There was no response. No reaction. Nobody noticed. It was like the bullet had never been fired at all. They didn't fire again. They were too shaken up.
So, a failure, but a miracle. And a lesson. They spent October acting like the professionals they were, starting over, calming down, thinking, learning, preparing for their second attempt. It would be a better attempt, carefully planned and properly executed, built around technique and nuance and sophistication, and enhanced by unholy fear. A worthy attempt. A creative attempt. Above all, an attempt that wouldn't fail.
Then November came, and the rules changed completely.
Reacher's cup was empty but still warm. He lifted it off the saucer and tilted it and watched the sludge in the bottom flow toward him, slow and brown, like river silt.
"When does it need to be done?" he asked.
"As soon as possible," she said.
He nodded. Slid out of the booth and stood up.
"I'll call you in ten days," he said.
"With a decision?"
He shook his head. "To tell you how it went."
"I'll know how it went."
"OK, to tell you where to send my money."
She closed her eyes and smiled. He glanced down at her.
"You thought I'd refuse?" he said.
She opened her eyes. "I thought you might be a little harder to persuade."
He shrugged. "Like Joe told you, I'm a sucker for a challenge. Joe was usually right about things like that. He was usually right about a lot of things."
"Now I don't know what to say, except thank you."
He didn't reply. Just started to move away, but she stood up right next to him and kept him where he was. There was an awkward pause. They stood for a second face-to-face, trapped by the table. She put out her hand and he shook it. She held on a fraction too long, and then she stretched up tall and kissed him on the cheek. Her lips were soft. Their touch burned him like a tiny voltage.
"A handshake isn't enough," she said. "You're going to do it for us." Then she paused. "And you were nearly my brother-in-law."
He said nothing. Just nodded and shuffled out from behind the table and glanced back once. Then he headed up the stairs and out to the street. Her perfume was on his hand. He walked around to the cabaret lounge and left a note for his friends in their dressing room. Then he headed out to the highway, with ten whole days to find a way to kill the fourth-best-protected person on the planet.
It had started eight hours earlier, like this: team leader M. E. Froelich came to work on that Monday morning, thirteen days after the election, an hour before the second strategy meeting, seven days after the word assassination had first been used, and made her final decision. She set off in search of her immediate superior and found him in the secretarial pen outside his office, clearly on his way to somewhere else, clearly in a hurry. He had a file under his arm and a definite stay back expression on his face. But she took a deep breath and made it clear that she needed to talk right then. Urgently. And off the record and in private, obviously. So he paused a moment and turned abruptly and went back inside his office. He let her step in after him and closed the door behind her, softly enough to make the unscheduled meeting feet a little conspiratorial, but firmly enough that she was in no doubt he was annoyed about the interruption to his routine. It was just the click of a door latch, but it was also an unmistakable message, parsed exactly in the language of office hierarchies everywhere: you better not be wasting my time with this.
He was a twenty-five-year veteran well into his final lap before retirement, well into his middle fifties, the last echo of the old days. He was still tall, still fairly lean and athletic, but graying fast and softening in some of the wrong places. His name was Stuyvesant. Like the last Director-General of New Amsterdam, he would say when the spelling was questioned. Then, acknowledging the modern world, he would say: like the cigarette. He wore Brooks Brothers every day of his life without exception, but he was considered capable of flexibility in his tactics. Best of all, he had never failed. Not ever, and he had been around a long time, with more than his fair share of difficulties. But there had been no failures, and no bad luck, either. Therefore, in the merciless calculus of organizations everywhere, he was considered a good guy to work for.
"You look a little nervous," he said.
"I am, a little," Froelich said back.
His office was small, and quiet, and sparsely furnished, and very clean. The walls were painted bright white and lit with halogen. There was a window, with white vertical blinds half closed against gray weather outside.
"Why are you nervous?" he asked.
"I need to ask your permission."
"For something I want to try," she said. She was twenty years younger than Stuyvesant, exactly thirty-five. Tall rather than short, but not excessively. Maybe only an inch or two over the average for American women of her generation, but the kind of intelligence and energy and vitality she radiated took the word medium right out of the equation. She was halfway between lithe and muscular, with a bright glow in her skin and her eyes that made her look like an athlete. Her hair was short and fair and casually unkempt. She gave the impression of having hurriedly stepped into her street clothes after showering quickly after winning a gold medal at the Olympics by playing a crucial role in some kind of team sport. Like it was no big deal, like she wanted to get out of the stadium before the television interviewers got through with her teammates and started in on her. She looked like a very competent person, but a very modest one.
"What kind of something?" Stuyvesant asked. He turned and placed the file he was carrying on his desk. His desk was large, topped with a slab of gray composite. High-end modern office furniture, obsessively cleaned and polished like an antique. He was famous for always keeping his desktop clear of paperwork and completely empty. The habit created an air of extreme efficiency.
"I want an outsider to do it," Froelich said.
Stuyvesant squared the file on the desk corner and ran his fingers along the spine and the adjacent edge, like he was checking the angle was exact.
"You think that's a good idea?" he asked.
Froelich said nothing.
"I suppose you've got somebody in mind?" he asked.
"An excellent prospect."
Froelich shook her head.
"You should stay outside the loop," she said. "Better that way."
"Was he recommended?"
Stuyvesant nodded again. The modern world.
"Was the person you have in mind recommended?"
"Yes, by an excellent source."
"Yes," Froelich said again.
"So we're already in the loop."
"No, the source isn't in-house anymore."
Stuyvesant turned again and moved his file parallel to the long edge of the desk. Then back again parallel with the short edge.
"Let me play devil's advocate," he said. "I promoted you four months ago. Four months is a long time. Choosing to bring in an outsider now might be seen to betray a certain lack of self-confidence, mightn't it? Wouldn't you say?"
"I can't worry about that."
"Maybe you should," Stuyvesant said. "This could hurt you. There were six guys who wanted your job. So if you do this and it leaks, then you've got real problems. You've got half a dozen vultures muttering told you so the whole rest of your career. Because you started second-guessing your own abilities."
"Thing like this, I need to second-guess myself. I think."
"No, I know. I don't see an alternative."
Stuyvesant said nothing.
"I'm not happy about it," Froelich said. "Believe me. But I think it's got to be done. And that's my judgment call."
The office went quiet. Stuyvesant said nothing.
"So will you authorize it?" Froelich asked.
Stuyvesant shrugged. "You shouldn't be asking. You should have just gone ahead and done it regardless."
"Not my way," Froelich said.
"So don't tell anybody else. And don't put anything on paper."
"I wouldn't anyway, it would compromise effectiveness."
Stuyvesant nodded vaguely. Then, like the good bureaucrat he had become, he arrived at the most important question of all.
"How much would this person cost?" he asked.
"Not much," Froelich said. "Maybe nothing at all. Maybe expenses only. We've got some history together. Theoretically. Of a sort."
"This could stall your career. No more promotions."
"The alternative would finish my career."
"You were my choice," Stuyvesant said. "I picked you. Therefore anything that damages you damages me, too."
"I understand that, sir."
"So take a deep breath and count to ten. Then tell me that it's really necessary."
Froelich nodded, and took a breath and kept quiet, ten or eleven seconds.
"It's really necessary," she said.
Stuyvesant picked up his file.
"OK, do it," he said.
She started immediately after the strategy meeting, suddenly aware that doing it was the hard part. Asking for permission had seemed like such a hurdle that she had characterized it in her mind as the most difficult stage of the whole project. But now that felt like nothing at all compared with actually hunting down her target. All she had was a last name and a sketchy biography that might or might not have been accurate and up to date eight years ago. If she even remembered the details correctly. They had been mentioned casually, playfully, late one night, by her lover, part of some drowsy pillow talk. She couldn't even be sure she had been paying full attention. So she decided not to rely on the details. She would rely solely on the name itself.
She wrote it in large capital letters at the top of a sheet of yellow paper. It brought back a lot of memories. Some bad, most good. She stared at it for a long moment, and then she crossed it out and wrote UNSUB instead. That would help her concentration, because it made the whole thing impersonal. It put her mind in a groove, took her right back to basic training. An unknown subject was somebody to be identified and located. That was all, nothing more and nothing less.
Her main operational advantage was computer power. She had more access to more databases than the average citizen gets. UNSUB was military, she knew that for sure, so she went to the National Personnel Records Center's database. It was compiled in St. Louis, Missouri, and listed literally every man or woman who had served in a U.S. military uniform, anywhere, ever. She typed in the last name and waited and the inquiry software came back with just three short responses. One she eliminated immediately, by given name. I know for sure it's not him, don't I? Another she eliminated by date of birth. A whole generation too old. So the third had to be UNSUB. No other possibility. She stared at the full name for a second and copied the date of birth and the Social Security number onto her yellow paper. Then she hit the icon for details and entered her password. The screen redrew and came up with an abbreviated career summary.
Bad news. UNSUB wasn't military anymore. The career summary dead-ended five whole years ago with an honorable discharge after thirteen years of service. Final rank was major. There were medals listed, including a Silver Star and a Purple Heart. She read the citations and wrote down the details and drew a line across the yellow paper to signify the end of one era and the start of another. Then she plowed on.
Next logical step was to look at Social Security's Master Death Index. Basic training. No point trying to chase down somebody who was already dead. She entered the number and realized she was holding her breath. But the inquiry came back blank. UNSUB was still alive, as far as the government knew. Next step was to check in with the National Crime Information Center. Basic training again. No point trying to sign up somebody who was serving time in prison, for instance, not that she thought it was remotely likely, not in UNSUB's case. But you never knew. There was a fine line, with some personality types. The NCIC database was always slow, so she shoved drifts of accumulated paperwork into drawers and then left her desk and refilled her coffee cup. Strolled back to find a negative arrest-or-conviction record waiting on her screen. Plus a short note to say UNSUB had an FBI file somewhere in their records. Interesting. She closed NCIC and went straight to the FBI's database. She found the file and couldn't open it. But she knew enough about the Bureau's classification system to be able to decode the header flags. It was a simple narrative file, inactive. Nothing more. UNSUB wasn't a fugitive, wasn't wanted for anything, wasn't currently in trouble.
She wrote it all down, and then clicked her way into the nationwide DMV database. Bad news again. UNSUB didn't have a driver's license. Which was very weird. And which was a very big pain in the butt. Because no driver's license meant no current photograph and no current address listing. She clicked her way into the Veterans' Administration computer in Chicago. Searched by name, rank, and number. The inquiries came up blank. UNSUB wasn't receiving federal benefits and hadn't offered a forwarding address. Why not? Where the hell are you? She went back into Social Security and asked for contributions records. There weren't any. UNSUB hadn't been employed since leaving the military, at least not legally. She tried the IRS for confirmation. Same story. UNSUB hadn't paid taxes in five years. Hadn't even filed.
OK, so let's get serious. She hitched straighter in her chair and quit the government sites and fired up some illicit software that took her straight into the banking industry's private world. Strictly speaking she shouldn't be using it for this purpose. Or for any purpose. It was an obvious breach of official protocol. But she didn't expect to get any comeback. And she did expect to get a result. If UNSUB had even a single bank account anywhere in the fifty states, it would show up. Even a humble little checking account. Even an empty or abandoned account. Plenty of people got by without bank accounts, she knew that, but she felt in her gut UNSUB wouldn't be one of them. Not somebody who had been a U.S. Army major. With medals.
She entered the Social Security number twice, once in the SSN field and once in the taxpayer ID field. She entered the name. She hit search.
One hundred and eighty miles away, Jack Reacher shivered. Atlantic City in the middle of November wasn't the warmest spot on earth. Not by any measure. The wind came in off the ocean carrying enough salt to keep everything permanently damp and clammy. It whipped and gusted and blew trash around and flattened his pants against his legs. Five days ago he had been in Los Angeles, and he was pretty sure he should have stayed there. Now he was pretty sure he should go back. Southern California was a very attractive place in November. The air was warm down there, and the ocean breezes were soft balmy caresses instead of endless lashing fusillades of stinging salt cold. He should go back there. He should go somewhere, that was for damn sure.
Or maybe he should stick around like he'd been asked to, and buy a coat.
Excerpted from WITHOUT FAIL by Lee Child. Copyright © 2002 by Lee Child. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Lee Child is the author of eighteen Jack Reacher thrillers, all international bestsellers, including the #1 New York Times bestsellers A Wanted Man, The Affair, Worth Dying For, 61 Hours, Gone Tomorrow, Bad Luck and Trouble, Nothing to Lose, and One Shot, as well as the short stories “Deep Down” and “Second Son.” An award-winning author worldwide, Child recently garnered the prestigious Diamond Dagger from the Crime Writers Association for an outstanding body of work in crime fiction, and has also won the Anthony, Barry, and Nero awards. He is co-president of the International Thrillers Writers and former president of the Mystery Writers of America. Foreign rights in the Reacher series have been sold in more than forty territories. A native of England and a former television director, Child lives in New York City, where he is at work on his next Jack Reacher thriller.
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In this novel Jack Reacher is asked to find the holes in the security surrounding the Vice President elect. It's setting is from Wyoming to Washington D.C. and places in between. The action never stops. Besides the exciting story we get to learn a bit more about Reacher and his brother. All in all a well written book.
This is a spectacular book. Jack Reacher is a character worth revisiting time and time again. Reacher and Neagley make this particular story spectacular with the teamwork they use. Froelich and Stuyvesant are fantastic characters.
This book combines an exciting story about a plot to kill the Vice President-elect with fascinating details about how the US Secret Service protects its charges and the capabilities and limitations of this fabled organization. The author throws in a bit of gratuitous sex and romance, but not enough to slow down the action. The puzzles involved in the case are presented fairly, so the reader has as much chance as Jack Reacher to figure them out in time. The well-known rivalries between the FBI and other national security organization are shown as real but put in perspective. No agent wants wants bureaucratic conflict to trump the mission. There is plenty of technical stuff about weapons, procedures, and jargon. For once they ring true. I've seen alleged ex-CIA and ex-police authors make blunders that ruin the flow of the story. Lee Child gets it right, which means he has great sources and pays attention to detail. All-in-all, a great read and a good introduction to the Secret Service protective detail.
England born, New York based thriller writer Lee Child has made an impact on his chosen genre with his first five novels. Much of the acclaim he has received is undoubtedly due to the creation of his memorable protagonist, Jack Reacher. Jack is a cool, canny and collected former military cop who needs all his skills and know-how in 'Without Fail.' A female Secret Service agent comes to Reacher with an astounding request: 'I want to hire you to assassinate the Vice President of the United States.' According to her this is the only way to test the security system she has in place to protect the newly elected V.P. When she makes this request, she does leave out one significant detail: a team of accomplished killers have already drawn a bead on the Vice President. They, of course, are not aware of Reacher's involvement. Child has spun a complex, unsettling thriller that will satisfy the most ardent suspense fiction fan.
I like Jack Reacher stories very much. Hollywood has miscast Tom Cruise in the role of Jack reacher.
I'm working my way thru the Jack Reacher books. This is probably my least favorite of the ones I've read so far. It was still worth reading, especially if you're a Jack Reacher fan and it does share some info about Jack's brother that is interesting. It just didn't grab me with the same degree of excitement that the other Reacher books have done. Plus it seems like the same basic plot has been done by Vince Flynn, Brad Thor, Daniel Silva, and several others.
I've read them in order thus far and have loved the series. Without Fail....#6....does not make the grade. In comparison to the first Reacher books, this one plods along. Action is limited, and isn't that a main reason for reading these types of books? By no means is the story awful nor is it a waste of money; it just does not rise above average. Plodding, characters lack a little depth, limited action - good overall, but just not the level of GREAT I've come to expect.
I have read at least half of the Reacher series and thisnwas my least favorite but still a decent read.
I'm a big Jack Reacher fan, and I'm reading them in order. Killing Floor got me hooked, and the sequels were both different and entertaining. "Without Fail" disappointed me a little. I sense a pattern (Jack working with one - no here two good-looking women), but nothing seems to be happening until page 250. No page turners, no cliff hangers, Jack not getting physical with bad guys. The plot is good, but the pages leading in to it were a wasteland of non-events.
Sure, there's some reality supsense involved, but the writing is crisp, with the perfect amount of detail and I've never been able to guess what's going to happen next or who the bad guy is (at least not 100%). A master and I found this to be one of best I've read; a lot of mental suspense as opposed to all action, but I found it to be a good character building book of the series. Reacher is a complex dude, always slightly out of reach.
This is way below average when compared to the first 5 books in the series.
This is a great addition to the Jack Reacher series but a little bit different than the others in the series. Lee Child pulled off yet one more fantastic book that is a must read for every Lee Child reader
I don't mind Reacher being a physical superman, even to the point of being unrealistic, but he's also supposed to be reasonably intelligent: he didn't get to be a high-ranking officer, then busted, then fight his way back to Major by being stupid. So when he missed several significant clues during this investigation, including two major ones right at the beginning that I spotted immediately, that was far too unrealistic and contrived for me.
not one of Childs best efforts. Seemed liked it took along time to get to a certain place.
Some times Child's way to make Reacher look smart is to dumb down everyone around him. Other than that it was a good airplane read
This installment in the Jack Reacher series was amazing. I've read all of the Reacher books and this one I could not put down.
Once again Jack Reacher is on the case in this amazingly written book. Just as in all of the Jack Reacher series, Lee Child paints one of the most vivid and provocative tales that I have ever read. I give this book 5 stars and recommend it to any and all readers that love a good action novel.
I've read all of Lee Child's books. And I think this is the best yet. Reacher is tapped to help out the secret service with a study. He ends up sticking around longer because of a real threat. The kind of situation Reacher excels at. And it is handled in pure Reacher style. Outstanding book. Jon Jordan
These books just keep getting better and better! My husband and I watched last night's episode of Rizzoli & Isles and I had to keep my mouth shut about it being a complete rip off of this book because he hasn't read it yet! VERY HIGHLY RECOMMEND!!!!
excellent read Jack on top of his game