Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Jack Reacher Is Sent Back to Night School

The twenty-first entry in the Jack Reacher series is another flashback to an adventure that occurred while Reacher was still in the army. The year is 1996; Reacher is only thirty-five years old, and he's fresh off a very successful mission for which he has been awarded a medal. But immediately after the ceremony, he's issued new orders to attend a night school course--hardly the reward he was expecting after a job well done. He's now effectively off the rest of the Army's radar, at least for the time being.

Reacher arrives at the facility where the course is supposed to take place only to find two other "students," one from the CIA and the other from the FBI. They too have just come off successful missions and are wondering why they've been consigned to a duty like this. But the three are soon joined by a pair of very senior government officials who explain that they are not actually going back to school. Rather, they've been delegated to work on a very secret mission of extreme urgency.

All anyone seems to know at the moment is that a group of jihadists, with a cell in Hamburg, Germany, has offered to spent one hundred million dollars for something that an American proposes to sell to them. No one has any idea who the American is or what he could possibly have that would be worth that much money. But whatever it might be, if the jihadists want it that badly, the exchange has to be very bad news for the United States and probably for the rest of the western world as well.

Reacher will recruit his old compatriot, Sergeant Frances Neagley, to work with the team and Reacher and Neagley will spend most of their time in Hamburg, attempting to unravel the mysteries surrounding this transaction. Unlike most of the Reacher novels, Reacher is obviously now back in uniform. He's part of a huge institution and, while fans of the series are used to watching Reacher act as a solitary individual, basically making up his own rules as he goes along, here he is compelled to work as a member of a team. Naturally, though, he will do so in a style that is uniquely his own and that will still enable him to beat the crap out of a lot of bad guys along the way.

This is an okay book, but it's not among the better ones in the series. In part this is because of the constraints that the plot places upon Reacher and also because the book has a tendency to bog down in places as Reacher, Neagley and the rest of the team race around Hamburg pursuing a lot of leads that will prove fruitless before they finally get on the right track. Fans of the series will certainly want to read it, but more casual fans of crime fiction who just occasionally check in on Jack Reacher might want to look for one of the other books in the series.

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