Night School, by Lee Child, is the twenty-first Jack Reacher novel to be published but the first that I have read. It is easy to see why this series sells so well. The writing is slick, the plot engaging, the tension pitch perfect. Jack Reacher is an all American character willing to break the rules and put his life on the line for his country. He is street savvy but without the swagger. He gets the girl. With my distrust of unswerving nationalism I didn’t warm to him at all.
The action in this tale occurs in Hamburg where intelligence reports a dangerous international deal is being brokered. They don’t know what for or who is involved. What they do know is that the goods are changing hands for one hundred million dollars, that an American is the supplier, and that the leak has come from a sleeping cell of smartly dressed young Saudis.
Reacher is to work with two other highly regarded government employees, one from the FBI and the other from the CIA. Their task is shrouded in secrecy but they have top level clearance to ask for whatever they need in order to find out what is going on. The key is the unknown American and locating him becomes their top priority.
Investigations uncover details of many more crimes in the city – the death of a prostitute, forged documents, and a nasty undercurrent of resentment from aggressive German nationalists. Reacher needs the help of the local police but cannot tell them exactly what he seeks. The arrogance he displays goes some way to explaining why the American interlopers are widely disliked.
Many of the male characters are depicted as grotesques with their voyeurism and sexual preferences. The descriptions of clubs attended make for sickening reading – I want to think better of men than that they should choose to visit such places in numbers big enough to keep them in business. There are a few strong women in the story but they are supports for Reacher’s attributes and feats of daring. Stereotypes are rarely challenged.
The plot offers the reader puzzles to solve while keeping Reacher just a little behind that how he catches up may be fully savoured. Much of what goes on is fanciful but makes for entertaining reading. Reacher’s behaviour is the stuff of male ego dreams. I would guess it is this capably presented escapism which makes the books such popular reads.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Bantam Press.