Monday, March 27, 2017

What we're reading: Jack Reacher

Night School, by Lee Child, is the 21st in the Jack Reacher franchise. It's a prequel, set in the mid-1990s, when Reacher is still a major in the military police (Army). He has been seconded to an emergency task force (the pretense is that he's been sent to some kind of training school, which is supposed to make him uninteresting to those who are watching) made up of three people: an FBI guy, a CIA guy, and Jack. They are briefed by the NSA to conduct a super-secret investigation into something really nebulous; an undercover agent in Germany in a Jihadist cell overheard a whisper between a courier and one of his roommates: "The American wants a hundred million dollars." No one knows what American, or what would cost so much money, but everyone involved assumes that this can be nothing but bad news. Now these three--and any colleagues they feel they can trust sufficiently to bring in on the job--have to figure out who, what, where, and, most importantly, when this transaction is going to go down, so they can stop it.

I had mixed feelings about this book. On the plus side, the issue Reacher and friends are working on—trying to figure out what someone had stolen from the military that the military didn't even know had gone missing—was convoluted and interesting. I enjoyed the way Child portrayed the thief—that guy felt real and had great personality, and how he came upon, stole, and arranged to sell what he did was the best part of the book. I also liked the give and take between Reacher and the German police officer without whom nothing in this investigation could happen.

But the other officials who started out on the "team" with him quickly fade into the background and become dropped names rather than characters (at one point he has them all in a car together going somewhere and I'm thinking wait, who are these people, again?), with the exception of the woman who is the head of the NSA and provides the so-called "love" interest—and she's a great big cliché, from the top of her finger-combed hairdo to the bottom of her patent leather pumps. Even Reacher's old partner and buddy, Frances Neagley, an interesting, three-dimensional character in previous books, turns into a prop in a play in this one.

Also on the minus side, the way the whole adventure went down seemed lackluster for a Reacher novel—more mildly frustrating than majorly suspenseful for much of the book. By the time the resolution came, it seemed a little anticlimactic.

I read reviews from other readers on Goodreads who felt that the fact that this was a flashback to when Reacher was still in the army placed constraints on the plotting that didn't exist in the books in which he is a retired free agent...but I'm not quite sure that was all of it. Maybe I'm just getting tired of this series? I missed #20, Make Me, which is a contemporary story, so I'll have to read that one to find out.

This (and most of the more recent Reacher novels by Child) is available from Burbank Public Library as an audio book and an e-book as well.

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