cover image The Sentinel

The Sentinel

Lee Child and Andrew Child. Delacorte, $28.99 (268p) ISBN 978-1-9848-1846-1

Ironically, it took an English author to realize the dramatic possibilities of modernizing the wandering gunfighter of American frontier stories. Starting in 1997 with Killing Floor, Lee Child introduced Jack Reacher, a former military policeman with a fascination for blues music and prime numbers, a Luddite with a highly developed limbic brain and a compulsion to wander the United States, walking, hitchhiking, or traveling by bus, carrying only cash, a toothbrush, and his passport. He doesn’t look for trouble, but he certainly doesn’t walk away from it. And one more distinctive element: his appearance. “He was six feet five. 250 pounds. His hair was a disheveled mess. He was unshaved. Children had been known to run screaming at the sight of him.” Most of the Reacher books have been #1 bestsellers. What makes this new Reacher novel (the 25th) a special publishing event is that the series now has a cowriter, Andrew Child, who also writes as Andrew Grant (Too Close to Home) and is Lee Child’s younger brother. Booksellers and Reacher fans might wonder if anything has changed. A line from The Sentinel will reassure them that nothing has changed. “Someone had sent six guys after [Reacher]. It would be wrong to let the day end with only two of them in the hospital.” This time, Reacher arrives in a town near Nashville, where he heads toward one of his favorite destinations, a coffee shop, only to notice that someone is about to be abducted. Reacher being Reacher, he saves the stranger and ends up confronting a conspiracy involving cyber ransom, election sabotage, a Cold War secret, and... enough to say that plenty is happening. Much of The Sentinel is humorous as Reacher patiently teaches bad guys about the flaws in their tactics. While there’s lots of action, the novel also feels like a procedural as Reacher interviews suspects and delves deeper toward the truth. On occasion, almost subliminal references to Reacher’s background, especially his mother’s harsh childhood in France during WWII, suggest a motive for his increasing anger toward the people he’s hunting. In the last 50 pages, that anger intensifies, with Reacher battling numerous enemies in the many levels of an underground complex—one of the most inventive action sequences in recent memory. Apart from some timely plot elements (the title refers to a software program designed to prevent election fraud, for example), this new Reacher novel could have been published earlier. It continues the series without any sense that there’s now a coauthor. In a year of drastic change, fans will welcome the consistency. (Oct.) David Morrell is the bestselling author of First Blood and Murder as a Fine Art.