Excerpt from Without Fail by Lee Child, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Without Fail

A Jack Reacher Novel

By Lee Child

Without Fail
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  • Hardcover: May 2002,
    384 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2003,
    416 pages.

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Bad news. UNSUB wasn't military anymore. The career summary dead-ended five whole years ago with an honorable discharge after thirteen years of service. Final rank was major. There were medals listed, including a Silver Star and a Purple Heart. She read the citations and wrote down the details and drew a line across the yellow paper to signify the end of one era and the start of another. Then she plowed on.

Next logical step was to look at Social Security 's Master Death Index.

Basic training. No point trying to chase down somebody who was already dead. She entered the number and realized she was holding her breath. But the inquiry came back blank. UNSUB was still alive, as far as the government knew. Next step was to check in with the National Crime Information Center. Basic training again. No point trying to sign up somebody who was serving time in prison, for instance, not that she thought it was remotely likely, not in UNSUB 's case. But you never knew. There was a fine line, with some personality types. The NCIC database was always slow, so she shoved drifts of accumulated paperwork into drawers and then left her desk and re billed her coffee cup. Strolled back to find a negative arrest-or-conviction record waiting on her screen. Plus a short note to say UNSUB had an FBI file somewhere in their records. Interesting. She closed NCIC and went straight to the FBI 's database. She found the file and couldn't open it. But she knew enough about the Bureau 's classification system to be able to decode the header flags. It was a simple narrative file, inactive. Nothing more. UNSUB wasn't a fugitive, wasn't wanted for anything, wasn't currently in trouble.

She wrote it all down, and then clicked her way into the nationwide DMV database. Bad news again. UNSUB didn't have a driver's license. Which was very weird. And which was a very big pain in the butt. Because no driver's license meant no current photograph and no current address listing.

She clicked her way into the Veterans' Administration computer in Chicago.

Searched by name, rank and number. The inquiries came up blank. UNSUB wasn't receiving federal benefits and hadn't offered a forwarding address. Why not? Where the hell are you? She went back into Social Security and asked for contributions records. There weren't any. UNSUB hadn't been employed since leaving the military, at least not legally. She tried the IRS for confirmation. Same story. UNSUB hadn't paid taxes in five years. Hadn't even filed. OK, so let 's get serious. She hitched straighter in her chair and quit the government sites and fired up some illicit software that took her straight into the banking industry 's private world. Strictly speaking she shouldn't be using it for this purpose. Or for any purpose. It was an obvious breach of official protocol. But she didn't expect to get any comeback. And she did expect to get a result. If UNSUB had even a single bank account anywhere in the fifty states, it would show up. Even a humble little checking account. Even an empty or abandoned account. Plenty of people got by without bank accounts, she knew that, but she felt in her gut UNSUB wouldn't be one of them. Not somebody who had been a U.S. Army major. With medals.

From Without Fail by Lee Child, Copyright © May 2002, The Putnam Publishing Group, a member of Penguin Putnam, Inc., used by permission.

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