The story begins with a prologue explaining how a man named Hook Hobie had a secret to hide and had planned a careful escape route in case anyone ever got close to finding it out.
The main story then begins with Jack Reacher being visited by a private detective called Costello. Costello is looking for Reacher, but Reacher lies and tells him he knows nothing of a Jack Reacher living or working in Key West – the Floridian setting for the book. Reacher manages to get out of Costello that he is looking for Reacher under orders from a client named Mrs. Jacob, although Reacher knows nobody who goes by that name. After Reacher manages to keep up the charade that he is not who he really is, Costello leaves.
Later on Reacher is working his night job as a bouncer in a strip club when two men come looking for him. Once again, Reacher lies about his name and denies knowing anyone called Reacher, and after a short confrontation, the two men leave. Reacher goes to follow them but can’t find them among the winding side roads. He does, however, find a dead Costello with his fingertips cut off. Reacher decides to head to Miami and from there catch a flight to New York to try and find out who this Costello was and why he was looking for Reacher.
Reacher arrives in New York and begins his search for Mrs. Jacob and his search for more information on Costello. He manages to find out the address of Mrs. Jacob through Costello and arrives at Mrs. Jacob’s house to a funeral of one of his old friends, Leon Garber; his daughter, Jodie Garber-Jacob is then revealed to be the mysterious Mrs. Jacob.
Together, Reacher and Jodie begin trying to uncover more information on Hook Hobie which leads to them getting attacked on several occasions by men sent out by Hobie. They discover he was drafted in the Vietnam War and was a skilled pilot who lost his hand when his helicopter went down. However, the truth that Hook Hobie is not who he says he is then found out, and it turns out that Hobie was actually a soldier named Carl Allen who stole Victor Hobie’s identity when the helicopter that Hobie was piloting was shot down; the helicopter having been sent with a crew to arrest Allen for fragging his commanding officer in the forest.
In the climax of the story, Reacher and Jodie confront Allen, leading to a gun fight between the two. Allen is killed and Reacher sustains a bullet wound to the chest that should have killed him, although a doctor explain due to how much exercise and physical labour he has done through his life, his pectoral muscle was so thick the bullet could only get to Reacher’s ribcage before stopping. The story ends with Reacher and Jodie visiting the real Victor Hobie’s parents and telling them how much of a good soldier he was.
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