The story begins in New York, with Reacher confronting and beating up two thugs sent to collect money from the diner he was eating in as part of a protection racket, implying that he is a member of a rival gang. Reacher is then pulled up by the FBI and questioned over who he is working for, but explains he is a loner and has been since he mustered out of the army. He is then questioned about two women whose cases of sexual harassment he dealt with when he was an MP and it is revealed they have both been killed in the last few months and a criminal profiling team have come to the conclusion that the person who did was someone exactly like Reacher.
Reacher’s girlfriend, Jodie Garber-Jacob, arrives and after another questioning, Reacher is let go. Jodie heads back to work and Reacher heads home, where he is soon called upon by two members of the FBI team that previously questioned him. They reveal a third women has been killed; also an ex-soldier who filed for sexual harassment – albeit in a different timeframe than the first two. ask him to help out the investigation, and Reacher refuses – up until they blackmail him, saying that the men Reacher beat up at the start of the story may gain access to Jodie’s address if he doesn’t cooperate.
Reacher heads up to Quantico with the lead profiler on the team, Special Agent Lamarr, and they discuss some information on the case; which reveals that Lamarr’s stepsister is a woman with the same particulars as the three already killed. Lamarr also reveals the killer’s M.O.; which is killing the victim in a yet unknown way, stripping her naked and then placing the victim in her bathtub, before pouring army-issue camouflage paint over the victim.
The team continue their search, and the next victim is Agent Lamarr’s stepsister. Local policemen are then put on duty of the remaining women on the list. Eventually Reacher and Harper catch the killer: Lamarr. She is in the process of killing her fifth victim when the two interrupt her and Reacher punches her; breaking her neck and killing her. Reacher and Harper come to the conclusion that Lamarr was utilising her hypnotising techniques in order to make them comply with her orders, before making them stick their tongue down their own throat to suffocate themselves. The FBI is unhappy that Reacher has killed one of their agents and threatens to prosecute him, but an agreement is made. Reacher then meets up with Jodie and she reveals she is leaving for London in a month’s time. Reacher knows he will not want to go with her and the two agree to spend one last month together.The team hold several meetings at Quantico and Reacher meets Lisa Harper; the woman who has to accompany Reacher wherever he goes. Reacher suggests contacting a colonel, who owes Reacher a favour, at Fort Dix to try and get a trace on the paint. Reacher and Harper head up to New Jersey, but whilst Harper remains outside the colonel’s office for security reasons, Reacher heads back to New York and beats up two members of the rival gang of the gang from which he beat up two members at the beginning of the story. He then returns with Harper oblivious to this.
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