The End of an Era or the Rebirth of an Icon? A review of “The Sentinel” by Lee Child and Andrew Child

“The Sentinel” is Lee Child’s twenty fifth edition of Jack Reacher’s exploits as he travels across the U.S. That means Child has been creating trouble for Reacher for a quarter century. As with all good things, change is inevitable, thus he has brought in reinforcements. Namely co-author Andrew Child.

Reacher seemingly goes wherever the road takes him. Most often under his own power. Walking. But sometimes he hitches, if the weather doesn’t cooperate or if it’s an especially long stretch between towns. In “The Sentinel” the road takes him to Pleasantville, TN where he interrupts a kidnapping in progress, thus saving Rusty Rutherford, an IT dweeb who got fired after a cyberattack that targeted the town’s records and data. Births, deaths, marriages, real estate transactions, tax records, etc. The whole ball of wax. Not stolen, but locked up and inaccessible and no one has the key. Reacher was intrigued and decided to see what all the fuss was about. Apparently the incident was covering up secrets that someone didn’t want exposed and that someone was willing to kill to keep those secrets. Rusty just wanted his name cleared and his job and his reputation back. Reacher figured there was more to the story and he set out to find out what was behind it all.

That is where the co-author becomes evident. Reacher has always been the next thing to a techno-illiterate. He doesn’t know computers and has no need or use for them. After mustering out of the Army as an MP Sergeant, his only goal was to see the USA. He knows weapons; rifles, handguns, semi-automatics, knives, etc. but not computers. He doesn’t have or want a cell phone. He travels with the clothes on his back, a toothbrush in his shirt pocket, his ATM card for access to cash when or if he needs it and his government issued I.D. He doesn’t even wear a watch but always knows the exact time. But in this story, Reacher is furnished with a cell phone. Not a smart phone, just your basic phone to make and receive calls. That’s a huge step for Reacher and he ain’t all that happy about it either.

As plots go, this one seemed contrived and frankly wasn’t as intriguing as I’ve come to expect in Reacher’s exploits. He still mentally walks through his and his opponents’ expected actions and reactions when an encounter is imminent, always using the forces of kinetic energy to maximize the results and hopefully minimize any punishing blows to his own body. Classic Reacher moves. Expending the least amount of energy to attain maximum results.

I imagine it’s quite a challenge to continually create original plots, all the while striving to keep your character fresh and not resort to being formulaic and predictable. In that vein, Lee Child has succeeded, although the last two books left me feeling that Reacher had hit a tipping point and was beginning to relish the violence in his quest for justice. I’m okay with that as long as the quality of the writing isn’t diminished. Child’s polished prose is like a rare gem. Multi-faceted and sparkling in its clarity. Now the question is, can Andrew Child match and maintain the lofty goal of spare writing in which every word is necessary to tell the story but is completely devoid of any fluff? That is the mark of a truly gifted author. That writing is what has kept me coming back. Here’s hoping Andrew Child can keep Reacher viable. Three and a half stars.

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Twenty-fifth Chronicle of Reacher Escapades

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