Lee Child’s new Jack Reacher book, Night School, has two strikes against it, according to my husband. One, Reacher’s working with a team. Two, it’s set in the past. According to book critic-slash-graphic designer-slash-artist Mr. B, the best Reacher stories are present-day and Reacher, solo, against the bad guys.
All of which goes to prove that Karen and her hubby don’t always agree. Set in the mid-90s, Night School features a 35-year-old Reacher teaming up with his opposite numbers at the FBI and the CIA for a covert operation in Germany. The goal: to find out what jihadists would pay $100 million for, where it came from, and who is “the American” who is selling it to them. And, of course, to stop the sale and recover whatever it is. Because it’s sure to be bad.
So here is what Reacher naysayers won’t like about Night School: Reacher wins all his fights, even when it’s eight to one (or should I say eight to two, since the charming-yet-lethal Sgt. Frances Neagy does finish off the last one, arriving just in the nick of time). Reacher is irresistible to the one high-ranking, ultra-attractive older woman on the team, and their sexual escapades are almost too much. (Again? she asks. Yes, but then again, he’s younger than she is.) He throws away his clothes and buys new ones, even when he’s not moving around and could go to the laundromat. His insights almost always pay off, eventually. And the characters are all about 2 inches deep.
And of course, what fans like: All of the previous paragraph. Plus the twistiness of the plot. His breaking the rules to save the innocent. Plus, Reacher’s infallibility when it comes to sizing things up and doing what needs to be done – even if it’s shooting an unarmed man in the heart. And then the head. Because he’s a really, really bad man.
So, count me among the fans. I know it’s a formula. But I like the formula. I like 6’5″, 250 lb. guys who are ultra-cool under pressure. (Not that I know any in real life. It would probably be super scary and I’d back away, slowly, if I met one.) And with Night School, you get what you came for, in spades.