Published in 2000 The Visitor is the fourth book in the Jack Reacher series written by Lee Child. After reading the three previous books, and giving the mediocre ratings, goodness only knows why I decided to read this. I set my expectations low and wasn't disappointed. Here's the plot:

The prologue opens with a mystery person's point of view on knowledge, power and killing, "People say that knowledge is power. The more knowledge, the more power. Suppose you knew the winning numbers for the lottery? You would run to the store. And you would win. Same for the stock market. You're not talking about a trend or a percentage game or a whisper or a tip. You're talking about knowledge. Real, hard knowledge. You would buy. Then later you'd sell, and you'd be rich. Any kind of sports at all, if you could predict the future, you'd be home and dry. Same for anything. Same for killing people."

The story begins in New York City, with Reacher confronting and beating up two thugs sent to collect protection racket money from the new restaurant he was eating in, during which he deliberately implies that he is a member of a rival crime organization. Reacher is picked up by the FBI and questioned but explains he's been a loner 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. It is revealed they have both been killed in the last few months and a criminal profiling team has come to the conclusion that the person responsible was someone exactly like Reacher. Reacher realizes that he has no alibi for the places and times that the women were killed, and he requests a lawyer.

Reacher's lawyer girlfriend Jodie arrives, and he is released after further questioning. Jodie returns to work, and Reacher drives to his house in upstate New York that he inherited from Leon Garber  He is soon called upon by two members of the FBI team that previously questioned him. A third woman has been killed, also an ex-soldier who filed for sexual harassment – albeit in a different time-frame from the first two. The FBI compels him to assist with the investigation by threatening to hurt him and, possibly, Jodie too.

Reacher and Special Agent Lamarr, the lead profiler on the team, drive from New York to the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, whilst discussing information on the case. Lamarr's stepsister, it so happens, is a woman with the same particulars as the three already killed. Lamarr also reveals the killer's M.O., which is killing the victims in an unknown way, with no bruises or injuries, leaving them naked in their bathtub, filled with army-issue camouflage paint.

The team holds several meetings at Quantico, and Reacher meets agent Lisa Harper, the woman who has to accompany Reacher wherever he goes. Reacher suggests contacting Colonel John Trent at Fort Dix to try to get a trace on the paint. Reacher and Harper head up to New Jersey, but while Harper remains outside the colonel's office due to security clearance reasons, the colonel helps Reacher sneak out the window and arranges a four-hour trip to New York. Once there Jack targets a random pair of criminals collecting protection money and deliberately instigates a turf war between rival racketeers. By taking a certain crime lord out of the picture this effectively removes the leverage that the FBI has had over him and Jodie. He returns to New Jersey with Agent Harper being none the wiser.

The team continues the search, and the next victim is Agent Lamarr's stepsister. Local policemen are then put on surveillance of the remaining women on the list. Eventually Reacher and Harper catch the killer. It is none other than FBI Agent Lamarr. She is in the process of killing her fifth victim when Jack intervenes. Reacher and Harper come to the conclusion that Lamarr was utilizing her hypnotizing techniques to make the victims unwittingly suffocate themselves by swallowing their own tongues. Her motives were a family inheritance and a sociopathic bitterness to her stepsister; the other murders were carried out to muddy the investigative waters. The FBI is unhappy that Reacher has killed one of their agents, murderess or not, but an accord is eventually reached. Jack 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, since he misses his wandering ways, and the two agree to spend one last month together.

A laboured read with an unbelievable plot. Its also taken me until the fourth book to realize something. Child is a master as stretching out descriptions of people and scenes: "This thing happened, then he felt like this, then another thing happened and he saw a table, a chair, a light, a bed, then he felt like this, etc". Then saying the same thing again, albeit written in a slightly different way, then again. The other thing with this book is there is little more than people talking to each other until well past the half way mark. Factor in a lack of set pieces, the slow, long winded murder investigation, only sporadic bouts of action and a ludicrous (and I do mean ludicrous), frustrating ending, and finally the annoying peripheral characters. All of these points makes this a rating a solid, meh!

Buy a copy here.

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