07 December, 2016

#BookReview :: Night School (Jack Reacher #21) by Lee Child

It’s 1996, and Reacher is still in the army. In the morning they give him a medal, and in the afternoon they send him back to school. That night he’s off the grid. Out of sight, out of mind.
Two other men are in the classroom—an FBI agent and a CIA analyst. Each is a first-rate operator, each is fresh off a big win, and each is wondering what the hell they are doing there.

Then they find out: A Jihadist sleeper cell in Hamburg, Germany, has received an unexpected visitor—a Saudi courier, seeking safe haven while waiting to rendezvous with persons unknown. A CIA asset, undercover inside the cell, has overheard the courier whisper a chilling message: “The American wants a hundred million dollars.”

For what? And who from? Reacher and his two new friends are told to find the American. Reacher recruits the best soldier he has ever worked with: Sergeant Frances Neagley. Their mission heats up in more ways than one, while always keeping their eyes on the prize: If they don’t get their man, the world will suffer an epic act of terrorism.

From Langley to Hamburg, Jalalabad to Kiev, Night School moves like a bullet through a treacherous landscape of double crosses, faked identities, and new and terrible enemies, as Reacher maneuvers inside the game and outside the law.

I have been in a reviewing slump off late and I have to thank this book for finally managing to get me off it by making me want to rant! I am officially disappointed with a Jack Reacher book for the first time. I have read the whole series of 21 books (some of them multiple times) and have never tired of them. Yet I found this one fall short of the 20 other books in the series.

I was particularly looking forward to this book as it not only promised a glimpse into Reacher’s military life but also brings back Frances Neagley, a character I have loved before. The story begins with Reacher receiving an award for a job well done and then getting shipped off to school for a course on inter-agency cooperation. Of course, he is not really going back to school! It is just a cover for an assignment that brings FBI, CIA and the military together. An American has demanded a hundred million dollars from a Jihadist group in a meeting with a courier. That is all anyone knows. Who is the American? What is he selling that is worth a hundred million dollars? What is the jihadist group planning? What is going to happen? When? Where? Nobody has any clue! Jack Reacher and his new colleagues are ordered to leave no stones unturned to find this ‘American’ and what he is selling in order to stop whatever terror the Jihadist group is planning.

The plot sounds intriguing, at least at the beginning. With the Jihadist’s plans out in the open for us readers, it is very easy to figure out what the actual plan is and guessing what the ‘American’ is selling is not very difficult. The only suspense in the plot is how the American got hold of his goods and how Reacher is finally going to nail him. If one keeps track of the information that Reacher is getting, it is quite fun to watch his mind work as usual. There is quite a bit of action that Reacher gets into with Sergeant Neagley by his side. The way Neagley thinks almost mirrors Jack Reacher and as such the duo is fun to watch (read about) when they are analyzing a problem. 

That is about where the good aspects of the book end. As for what disappointed me was the lack of input from FBI & CIA members, the number of coincidences and the antagonist himself. It is often accepted that a book based on one intelligence organization would be looking down upon other intelligence organizations. But in this book, their role was so limited that I wondered why they were even brought in. The ‘American’ is not at all a villain who would make you run scared. I mean, not everyone can be Mogambo or Voldemort, but this character is simply annoying and made me wonder how he got away without being caught in the first place! And the sheer number of coincidence in the book just made me cringe. Every time Jack Reacher passed by a place, the villain either passed by it a few moments later or was just one block away. Hamburg is a huge city with a population of nearly 2 million people. What are the chances that the protagonist and the antagonist would be within a block of each other in every other chapter? Take into count that Jack Reacher had known only two places where the ‘Americans’ had been seen and had no idea where he lived or where his base of operation was. Hell, no one figured out who the ‘American’ was till quite late in the book, yet their paths had nearly crossed several times. In the end it felt like the book was just too long for the sake of the length and not the plot.

Lee Child showed us multiple points of view in this story and that really did not work. Not at all… it took away most of the suspense and thrills from the story.

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