Search This Blog

Monday 5 December 2022

THE SENTINEL - Book review


The Sentinel (2020) is the first Jack Reacher novel co-written by Lee Child and his brother Andrew.

Some readers have voiced their disappointment; and I can understand that to a certain degree. Yet I cannot see the join. How much is Lee, how much is Andrew? I couldn’t even guess. There are the usual scenes one comes to expect in a Reacher novel; some many pages long, where it’s talk-talk to reason everything out and tell us what’s what, interspersed infrequently with explosive action. The one-word sentences are still there. The repetitions. Even people who are named are referred to by their role, job or other aspect rather than their name, which can become tedious. Maybe there’s not so much wit or dry humour. But in the final analysis none of that matters: the style and the story inevitably suck the reader in yet again.

The book begins in Nashville where Reacher comes to the aid of a band of musicians who are denied their earnings by a nasty club owner. We know how that’s going to play out… This seems like pure Reacher even if the incident has no relevance to the main story.

Hitching a lift, Reacher ends up in a town where he prevents a civilian being kidnapped – in daylight. The town is suffering computer outage and the guy he rescues, Rusty Rutherford, is being blamed for it and has been sacked from his IT job. Of course there’s more to it than that. Is it just a simple case of computer blackmail? You get your systems back if you pay the ransom. Or is it something more? Some of the plot seems overly contrived and even confusing, with ludicrous misdirection pertaining to the Second World War.

The Macguffin this time is the The Sentinel, a computer application, the country’s last line of defence against computer terrorism – illuminatingly explained on p265 with regard to ‘stolen elections’ etc; which is nice and topical. And yet it isn’t mentioned until p195, over half-way through the book. Like so many Reacher titles, this one is not memorable; after a short while it will blend in with all the others.

Rusty’s helper is an ex-FBI agent (that’s useful!) called Sands. Behind the scenes is a guy called Speranski who is calling the shots, pulling the strings, and trying to track down Rutherford. There’s mention of the Center, whatever that is. Possibly I missed something, but the Speranski guy seems to vanish from the story at some point; I might have blinked. Maybe the Childs ran out of space or time so left it to the FBI to sweep up the bad guys, one of whom is presumably Speranski. Perhaps less description of furniture and buildings that have no relevance might have allowed for more space to bring alive the Speranski anomaly. I blame the editor. Unless Speranski is going to figure in the next book, of course...

Reacher’s charisma must be slipping, too. There was no sex though an invitation was implied…

Not one of ‘his’ best efforts, alas. Not a ‘keeper’. In my view.

No comments: