4 stars out of 5
There's a bit of a different feel to this one, the 21st, I believe, in the author's popular Jack Reacher series. That's probably because it takes place back in 1996, when Reacher is still in the army. He's got pretty much the same swagger, mental and physical capabilities, but he seems a little less, well, for want of a better word, exciting. Put another way, except for the obvious physical size differential, at times I actually could envision Tom Cruise in the movie role this time around.
The story, though, is no less interesting - even if it does happen when computers aren't yet the norm and the Internet is not much more than a gleam in Al Gore's eye. It begins as Reacher is getting another medal - one that will be kept secret and in that sense is rather meaningless. After the ceremony, he's surprised at being ordered immediately to "night school," which turns out to be something else entirely - the start of a clandestine operation. In the classroom are two other men, one from the FBI and the other from the CIA. Then, they learn the reason they're there: A CIA spy who has infiltrated a Middle-Eastern sleeper cell in Hamburg, Germany, has passed on a message that "The American wants a hundred million dollars."
That's an almost unheard-of sum of money, setting off alarm bells as to what's being bought and sold and by whom. To help, Reacher reels in an extremely competent soldier and friend, Sgt. Frances Neagley. From the start, their investigation must be conducted in utmost secrecy - with less than a handful of individuals aware of what they're doing (one of whom is the President of the United States). Other characters enter the mix as needed, some of whom have motives that aren't exactly in line with the goals of Reacher and his team.
Along with a plain old good story, Reacher shows flashes of the character he will become in later books: A man who loves his country enough to die for it, but who at the same time is willing to deviate from standard practices when getting the job done requires thinking outside government-issue boxes.
As always, it took me a few chapters to get used to the short, almost jabbing sentences (or, more accurately, sentence fragments - always like fingernails on a blackboard to a grammar freak like me). But also as always, the story grabbed ahold of all my senses and I quickly got into the rapid flow of things. All in all, another winner for the author - although I do hope he brings Reacher back to the here and now in the next one. Guess I just like my guys with a little more maturity under their shoulder holsters.
Night School by Lee Child (Delacorte Press, November 2016); 385 pp.