As a longtime Jack Reacher fan, I’d been a little disheartened after the last couple of Jack Reacher books. Lee Child had obviously hit a wall, whether it was difficulty in crafting new plot lines, or struggling with the success of the franchise. I wouldn’t say thew softball efforts, but they did lack the punch of early Jack Reacher novels. This is a spoiler-free review of his latest novel: The Sentinel
An aside: Book Reviews aren’t something I’m overly keen on, but I have been making an effort to write again. A muscle I’ve neglected from exercising for the last few years. This may become a series, or it may unlock whatever has been keeping my words from flowing. Either way, as one who reads 30-40 books a year, it gives me something to flex.
Three years ago, I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by Lee Child on his life, how he came to be an author and that he’d just delivered what would become Past Tense to his publisher. He had made the statement that getting that book out the door was quite a relief to him. I didn’t think much in the moment of that line, but fast forward a couple years later and the news that Lee Child (Grant) would be passing the baton of Jack Reacher to his brother Andrew Child (Grant). The first book after the the transition was The Sentinel.
I initially started The Sentinel a few days ago, after the new year, but the slow start put me off a little bit. Facing an incoming blizzard and not much else to do with Dry January, I decided to give it a fresh go and work through it.
The Review of The Sentinel
The few chapters seemed more an effort of an author trying to find his way into storyline he’d already developed. The scene in Nashville not doing much to add to the story than reestablishing Reacher as a drifter with some serious fighting chops. It also served to introduce the Rusty Rutherford as a central character to the story, whom was fired from his job (what he did and why he was fired takes a bit to get to). Reacher leaves Nashville hitchhiking, picked up a frazzled insurance adjuster who was lost on his way to Pleasantville, KY.
Arriving in Pleastanville, Reacher senses an ambush and proceeds to step in the way save Rusty from imminent doom.
Queue the shadowy figures and what becomes a fairly long slog through the next few chapters. Where we eventually learn about the town suffering through a ransomware attack, the police detective trying to send Reacher on his way, WWII Soviet Sleeper cells and still not a whole lot of detail as to what is really going on.
So as to avoid spoilers, I will use generalities going forward, but the plot does ramble between election security (shocker), undercover agents, blackmail, Nazi’s and a historic house called the Spy House.
Part of the sludge mid-story is that Rusty Rutherford could end the book at any time by doing what any sane individual would do and just get the f*ck out for awhile. But he’s stubborn, born and raised in Pleasantville, and desperate to prove he was wrongfully terminated. The Sentinel is actually an FBI security system designed to protect the election integrity of 48 of the 50 states.
I was still second guessing myself for giving the book another go, and then the plots lines started to weave together. A trio of FBI agents (two current, one former) at play, a helpful city cop and few bungled attacks by the evil bad guys. Rusty, as it turns out is a IT professional who was codeveloping some anti malware software with the former FBI agent. While their software failed at its purpose of stopping malware, it did succeed in stopping a core piece of the malware payload.
And this success is ultimately what leads to the action packed last few chapters in which the evil bad guys are unmasked, the manipulation of a group of fanatics, and the Soviet WWII Secrets are exposed.
With past and current events on election security, foreign influence/propaganda, these were slam dunk plot points within the story. Because of the slow start to the book, but knowing this is the work of authors in transition I rated this 3.5 Stars on my Amazon and GoodReads accounts. I am hopeful for the future and the next Reacher book is Better off Dead: A Jack Reacher Novel, due out October 26, 2021
The Sentinel has been out since October, 2020 and is available on Amazon and where ever books are sold.
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