Reacher is on a train in New York when he spots a woman (Susan Mark) who ticks all the boxes for a suicide bomber. When he approaches her to diffuse the situation she pulls out a gun and shoots herself. Her name was Susan Mark. Reacher is then questioned by the authorities (NYPD, FBI & foreigners in suits) but what he's asked makes little sense to him. He involves himself in finding out the truth when he realizes there is more than meets the eye.
Susan Mark worked for the Department of Defense and was said to be in possession of a flash drive with information that lots of people are after and now believe is in Reacher's possession. The NYPD, FBI, former Special Forces soldier & current politician, a sinister mother-daughter duo and their henchmen - all are after Reacher.
Reacher teams up with the Theresa Lee from the NYPD and Jacob Mark - Susan Mark's brother and also a cop in Jersey to unravel the events surrounding Susan's suicide. Along the way he tries to sort out friend from foe as he meets a politician, mercenaries and a Ukranian mother-daughter duo.
Just as in 'The Hard Way' which was also based in New York, this book has its share of gruesome scenes (torture and crimes of war), and references to the Patriot Act. Gone Tomorrow is an intense story, gripping because of the mystery rather than the plot; and it is violent. The stage for confrontation is set early on in the aftermath of Reacher's interrogations.
The screaming would start at a desperate pitch and move slowly and surely upward into insane banshee wailing. Sometimes it would last ten or twelve hours. Most corpses were never recovered. But sometimes bodies would be returned, missing hands and feet, or whole limbs, or heads, or ears, or eyes, or noses, or penises. Or skin.
And another parallel is the career path of veterans. Whereas 'The Hard Way' had vets becoming mercenaries, we have John Samson here taking up politics. Unlike THW Samson's service is under deep cover and he tries to turn everyone's attention away from asking questions - mainly by writing a book filled with the usual cliches and directing the focus there. Reacher purchases Samson's biography and his instinct tells him there's more the Samson than meets the eye. He rationalizes -
Most Special Forces careers never happened. It’s like people who claim to have been at Woodstock. Believe them all, the crowd must have been ten million strong. Like New Yorkers who saw the planes hit the towers. They all did, to listen to them. No one was looking the wrong way at the time. People who say they were Special Forces are usually bullshitting. Most of them never made it out of the infantry. Some of them were never in the army at all. People dress things up.’ So it’s a no-brainer to assume that people are fact-checking his actual biography. It’s a national sport.’ I skimmed it and found it fell into five main sections: his early life, his time in the service, his subsequent marriage and family, his time in business, and his political vision for the future. The early stuff was conventional for the genre. Hardscrabble local youth, no money, no frills, his mom a pillar of strength, his dad working two jobs to make ends meet. Almost certainly exaggerated. If you take political candidates as a population sample, then the United States is a Third World country. Everyone grows up poor, drinking water is a luxury, shoes are rare, a square meal is cause for jubilant celebration. Apart from that, nothing. Just a lot or training and standing by, which was always followed by standing down and then more training. His was maybe the first unexaggerated Special Forces memoir that I had ever seen. More than that, even. Not just unexaggerated. It was downplayed. Minimized, and dc-emphasized. Dressed down, not up. Which was interesting.
Gone Tomorrow has a little in the way of Reacher's past but his thought process covers his experience in combat, weaponry and military trivia. The book starts with Reacher going through twelve points in recognizing a suicide bomber that he learned from an Israeli operative. There are details about the effects of dynamite explosives, how he disguises his violence in public when the situation calls for it and even a brand endorsement for knives. There's even a little humor in there.
Reacher moves around New York negotiating in words and actions with the people after Susan Mark's flash drive assumed to be in his possession. He delves into his 'think like them' mode and leads them on when it suits him, and at the same time tries to locate the drive himself. Meanwhile he makes short term allies and enemies till he gets to the truth and the situation remains fluid till late into the book.