- 02 Nov 20
Hit The Road Jack
It’s pretty much business as usual for Jack Reacher #25. It wasn’t broke so Child, writing in collaboration - although how much collaboration there actually was is unclear - with his brother Andrew, has not tried to fix it: Reacher is still a hard-as-diamond-nails one-man A-Team. This former Major in the US Military Police drifts from town to town – although he strangely never winds up some place where nothing’s going on - carrying only a toothbrush, his bank card, and the clothes on his back.
If you’re looking for the usual psychological problems that beset action heroes then keep looking; Reacher is just a smart, strong, good guy who helps people when he sees they need it. Child has described him in interviews as a “knight-errant” and this notion, borrowed from medieval romances, perfectly sums up this wanderer out to right wrongs. On the other hand, this (usually) silent stranger who arrives into town to put things straight also borrows the tropes of the classic westerns.
Drifting through Tennessee, going where hitched lifts take him, our man stops for a cup of coffee and ends up foiling an apparent kidnap attempt on IT man Rusty Rutherford, who’s in the town’s bad books after a cyber attack has left the burg facing a ransom demand. Reacher advises Rutherford to hit the road, just as he intends to, but Rusty wants to clear his name, which is just the kind of straight shooting that Reacher admires, so he sticks around too.
Things get murky. There’s a murdered journalist, some past sins on a server that certain people want to remain buried, and who is it that the hardy thugs who are sent after Rutherford are so scared of?
There are Nazis, dodgy Russians, and the usual violent set pieces, where Reacher plots fights out in advance, like Sherlock Holmes planning a bartitsu bashing, are present and very much correct - you would feel short-changed if they weren’t. When the plot is uncovered, it's as up to date as tomorrow’s papers.
Long-time fans may question why Reacher does more talking than usual this time out. Nobody picks up a Child book expecting or hoping for Hamlet-style speechifying. This may be down to Andrew Child, to whom older brother Lee is apparently passing the reins of the family business. Let’s put the odd misstep, like - ah, here! - having Reacher use a mobile phone, down to first-time-out jitters, because, despite the fact that it's not quite as sharp as previous outings, The Sentinel is still marvellously entertaining.