March 1997. Six months before the events of Killing Floor. Jack Reacher is still in the army. And there's big trouble in a small town in Mississippi, where a soldier's girlfriend is found with her throat cut from ear to ear. Local trouble? Or is the killer from nearby Fort Kelham, a giant base used by elite Army Rangers? Reacher's orders: go undercover, keep your distance, monitor the investigation. The local sheriff is Elizabeth Deveraux, a beautiful woman and an ex-Marine MP. She has all the skills she needs, but she's making no progress. Why not? Is there a reason she doesn't want the killer identified? And there's constant pressure from the Pentagon, too. Shadowy figures from the world of politics want the killer unmasked but only if he's a civilian. Any other result would be a catastrophe. Reacher and Deveraux can't get near the base. There's a shadow force in the woods, enforcing a quarantine zone around the fence. But side by side they piece together the evidence and their partnership becomes more than professional. Eventually the army's official investigation produces a cast-iron prime suspect and so does Reacher's undercover search. But Reacher's answer is not the same as the army's. If he keeps quiet, will he be able to live with himself? And if he speaks out, will the army be able to live with him?