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The Sentinel: A Jack Reacher Novel

Review

The Sentinel: A Jack Reacher Novel

THE SENTINEL may well be the most eagerly anticipated thriller of 2020. Fans of the Jack Reacher series have been wondering what changes would be in store since Lee Child announced in January that he gradually would be passing the creative baton over to his brother Andrew Grant, a noted thriller author in his own right, by collaborating with him on a number of Reacher books before bowing out. This latest installment bodes well for the series going forward, with the right balance of an interesting mystery coupled with Reacher’s trademark skill set and personality.

The book opens by introducing readers to an (initially) enigmatic character named Rusty Rutherford one week after being fired from his job. The reasons for his termination, his employer and the nature of his work are revealed in due course. The picture that is painted is one of a nervous man at loose ends. Meanwhile, Reacher has stepped off a Greyhound bus in Nashville intending only to get food and hear some music. He ends up becoming involved in a dispute with a bar band and a bar owner, which is straightened out in typical Reacher style.

"This latest installment bodes well for the series going forward, with the right balance of an interesting mystery coupled with Reacher’s trademark skill set and personality."

Reacher then catches a ride to Pleasantville, about an hour away from Nashville. Pleasantville doesn’t quite live up to its name. For one thing, nothing seems to be working. For another, he is barely in town for a few minutes when he notices a setup for an abduction. The target is Rutherford. Reacher breaks it up in short order and soon learns that Rutherford is the city’s IT guy. When ransomware took over the town’s computer system and basically shut down the municipal government, Rutherford was blamed for it and fired, despite having warned officials that such a thing might happen. He had even written a program to try to prevent it from occurring but to no avail. Still, none of this explains why someone would want to kidnap him.

Reacher takes it upon himself to assume the role of Rutherford’s bodyguard, which becomes a daunting task, particularly when multiple parties on both sides of the law begin to interject themselves into the proceedings. He attempts to unravel the mystery surrounding Rutherford and why a number of people seem determined to acquire his program, which did not do the job it was supposed to do. What starts out as a fairly straightforward protection gig for Reacher actually involves something far larger and more sinister. We know that he will figure things out eventually; how he pulls it off will have you reading as quickly as you can to reach the end.

THE SENTINEL is a winning collaboration, though sometimes there is just a tad too much telling as opposed to showing. Some of it is necessary --- the Childs do an excellent job of delving into the inner workings of certain aspects of computer technology that most of us take for granted --- but occasionally the details of Reacher’s plan of action taps the brakes on the narrative instead of moving it forward. However, this is a minor quibble in a book that (briefly) shows us one of Reacher’s vulnerabilities and how he deals with it in the field. A truck stop also figures prominently in the book, as the authors propose that the modern version of these establishments makes it the Swiss Army knife of gas stations.

My best advice is to let yourself become swept up by the plot of THE SENTINEL. If you find yourself in the weeds at various points, do as Reacher would do and stiff-leg yourself out. Your momentary effort will be rewarded.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on October 27, 2020

The Sentinel: A Jack Reacher Novel
by Lee Child and Andrew Child

  • Publication Date: October 27, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press
  • ISBN-10: 1984818465
  • ISBN-13: 9781984818461