Monday 1 May 2017

Night School, by Lee Child

A few thoughts on Night School, by Lee Child

I think I’m growing used to Lee Child and Jack Reacher. The clipped sentences. The logical leaps. The physical invulnerability. The pure goddam luck that Reacher has in getting sex partners and in clues, both.

Night School is the 21st instalment in the Jack Reacher series, and it starts with an interdepartmental group being set up under cover of a training session (the “Night School”). Reacher, along with a few other officers, is put on the trail of a mysterious American who has asked for a hundred million dollars to provide a service to some unsavoury characters in the Middle East. What service? We don’t know. What American? We don’t know that either. When? Nope. Where? All we do know is the trail begins in Hamburg.

Starting from this admittedly vague premise, Reacher builds his case piece by piece until he gets his man. Not breaking any suspense here, because we all know Reacher always wins. The story seems meandering till about 2/3rds of the way through, when it begins to sink into you in characteristic Lee Child Style. The last 1/3rd is pretty good, and the ending is vintage Reacher.

There’s a neat bit of plotting I want to talk about here, with a little bit of spoiler. Reacher’s quarry has made fake ids with German names, and the team knows two of them. Throughout the book, it has become clear that the villain comes from a specific town in America. Now the team needs the third name. Reacher guesses it, correctly. It turns out that the first two names were very important town founders for the native town, and the third one is similarly, a  prominent businessman from the same town. Through the book, Child has been dangling this name of the town before us, but the connection between the names and the town is not made clear to us until Child shows it to us. Not that the typical reader is going to know of the town (I didn’t), but it’s a neat way of setting up a deductive win for the hero. Did Child choose the town because of the three Germans associated with it? Or did he make up this legend just for the book? We don’t know, and frankly we don’t have the time to think about it.

In case you're interested, this book is set in the 90s, from when Reacher was still in the Army. So going by the settings of the other books in the series, this is a sort of flashback, unlike Make Me, which was set in the "present".

Anyhow: what did I think of it? A 3 out of 5, probably. If you like Jack Reacher, you should definitely read it. It’s also not a bad book to start the series with, though not the best one.

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