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“She slid the file closer and ran her palm over it, left and right, and her hand came to rest at one end, and she kept it there. Maybe where it was warm from the small of my back.”

Their coupling, you understand there and then, is inevitable.

As for the affair Reacher was sent to handle, he does it in a way that uncovers one of his most important character attributes and also sets up the reason that Reacher will be involuntarily separated from the Army and begin what will become a multibook odyssey. In doing this, Mr. Child has written a veritable tour de force; the almost-perfect prequel to his 15 previous books.

With, one hopes, more to come.

John Weisman’s latest novel is “KBL: Kill Bin Laden” (William Morrow, 2011).