Night School

Lee Child’s 21st Jack Reacher novel, NIGHT SCHOOL, now available in paperback, is a prequel that has Reacher still serving as an Army officer in the Military Police. But that’s only one of the notable features in this latest title of the long-running and increasingly popular mystery/thriller series.

It is 1996, and as the novel opens Reacher has received his second Legion of Honor medal. But before he decides where to keep it, Reacher is ordered to report to his commanding officer, who tells Reacher he is being sent back to school. When Reacher arrives he finds two other men in the classroom, representatives from the CIA and the FBI—both as unaware of the purpose of the school as Reacher himself. Then members of the National Security Council appear and tell the three men, “This is not school.”

The men are then told of a Jihadist sleeper cell in Hamburg, Germany, manned by a double agent for the U.S. A Saudi courier has arrived at the cell, and the double agent overhears the courier reporting that, “The American wants a hundred million dollars.” Reacher and the other two men are then given the mission to find out who the American is, and what it is he is selling.

Previous Reacher stories has him working mostly on his own, with the occasional help from those he happens to meet in whatever town he ends up in. Here, however, Reacher is part of a team, and recruits his friend and associate, Sergeant Francis Neagley, to assist him. And while Reacher is never shy about asserting his opinion or interpretations, he is surprisingly cooperative throughout the mission. It is also one of Reacher’s earliest experiences of working “off the grid” while still serving in the Army.

Child conveys the story in the third person, with a style that is direct and near hard-boiled. He livens the prose with often-cynical observations that feel as though they are coming directly from Reacher. The action seldom lags, and Child relays each scene of violence in exacting detail. The focus is mostly with Reacher, but often switches to the perspective of other secondary players, as well as the antagonist.

Child also presents the antagonist – the mysterious American – in greater detail than most previous adventures. And while we may not agree with his motive, we come close to understanding this advesary and almost sympathize with him near the novel’s conclusion.

This is not the first time Child has given us some of Reacher’s military back-story. And while Child has always maintained that the series need not be read in strict chronological order, this latest entry, like THE ENEMY, give readers a chance to experience Reacher before he left the Army and hit the road; offering his considerable skills to those in need he encounters along the way.

For those who somehow resisted the series, NIGHT SCHOOL is a fine place to begin. It won’t be long before you find yourself wanting to read more about Jack Reacher. Fortunately most of Child’s previous titles are still available in paperback.

NIGHT SCHOOL is certain to satisfy long-time Reacher fans as well, who will appreciate another glimpse into Reacher’s past and experience him in action while still serving as an Army officer. —Alan Cranis

Get it at Amazon.

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