Book Reviews, Literary

Review: THE SENTINEL, by Lee Child and Andrew Child

“It is close to midnight on a Saturday night when Jack Reacher gets off a bus at the Greyhound station in Nashville. Reacher is in no hurry. He has no appointments to keep. No people to see. No scores to settle. Not yet anyway. But in the early morning hours, under particular circumstances, a familiar thought will be snaking through his sharp, instinctual lizard brain: A voice in his head telling him to walk away. Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time he listened to his gut instead. Meanwhile, seventy-five miles south and west of Music City is a sleepy little town where a recently-fired guy nurses a grudge that will fester into fury–and a desire for payback. But who is watching him, standing guard over a long-buried secret, ready to strike before it can be revealed? If you don’t have a sense of the danger you’re in, then it’s best to have Reacher”–

There are basically two Jack Reacher plots; one where he gets roped in to addressing a major national security threat, and one where he accidentally stumbles into someone’s evil scheme. I like the first kind much better, because it makes more sense. I dislike the second kind because the suspension of disbelief in which you have to engage is like dangling the Chrysler Building into the Grand Canyon with a fly rod and thirty-pound monofilament fishing line. Can’t be done.

THE SENTINEL is a bit of a hybrid of these two styles, but it relies on Reacher being in a small Tennessee town in the exact same instant that the evil schemers are forcing an innocent man into a car. If Reacher is ten minutes early or late, or is in Key West or Seattle, he never sees this happen and the story doesn’t happen. This isn’t quite as ridiculous as him spotting the evil scheme from a moving train, but it’s close.

The main problem with the second-order Reacher stories is that the evil schemers aren’t up to his fighting weight. This kind of book puts Reacher up against small-time laundromat owners or yuppie lodging entrepreneurs. Reacher tears through mooks like this as though they were made of wet cardboard.

Here, the evil schemers are a little more adept, but not much, and even though it’s a pleasure to see Reacher prevail, he’s not really being tested here.

The Andrew Child version of Reacher has him being a little more of a motormouth than usual, but other than that there’s no discernible loss of quality in the story. THE SENTINEL is a perfectly cromulent second-rank Reacher novel, if that’s what you’re looking for, that’s what you’ll get.