The annual publication of Lee Child’s brand new Jack Reacher thriller is always eagerly awaited. I received a lovely hardback edition of this one (it was purchased in an edition sold by Tesco in the UK, containing an exclusive short story: “The Fourth Man”).
Having read all the Jack Reacher books, I have to say this one isn’t one of the classics – for me, it took too long for the real story to begin. We follow a young, Canadian couple to a country motel following the breakdown of their car and Jack Reacher to the city of Laconia, the town where his father grew up. The motel, though, is not what it seems – the owners trap the Canadians in their room and set up a sinister gathering of like-minded individuals. Meanwhile, Reacher tracks down the location of his father’s family’s home and seeks accommodation – at the same motel. The final showdown is excellent and Reacher has lost none of his deadly skills.
This is a fascinating read, ranging across a variety of topics. What makes a great salesman? Why do are some TV programs so addictive? How do some people remain occasional smokers without ever developing a daily habit? There’s also a chapter on the magic number 150 – how the military, communities and companies have found that once a unit exceeds 150 people you need to split into sub-groups in order to maintain the same levels of cohesion.
This wasn’t a particularly memorable book – the main character is Tim Harding, a landscape gardener who finds himself chasing around the country investigating the theft of a historic ring and the death of a journalist, whilst also having an affair with the wife of a rich client. The shame of it is that there’s a gem of a plot hidden in this book, concerning the legend of the Grey Man of Ennor who supposedly had healing powers and cured people of the Black Death. His remains may still have the power to heal and are fiercely protected by local families on the Isles of Scilly.
As with the other Chris Ryan books that I’ve read, this one concerns the SAS. This time, though, it’s the SAS who are subject to a surprise attack – a training platoon mercilessly bombed by a well organised team, bent on revenge. The plot follows two experienced survivors from that day as they track down the perpetrators and aim to exact their own revenge. They are helped unofficially by the UK government, including the mysterious Cecilia Lakes – a senior official destined for greatness in the UK Intelligence Services.
Like other reviewers, I found a lot of the SAS jargon and bad language somewhat overdone. However, the story itself is gripping and worth a read.
This book follows a similar formula to The Afghan, by the same author. There’s a terrorist threat to the western world- extremists brainwashed by a radical cleric are murdering prominent public figures. A former US marine (codenamed The Tracker) must track down the preacher (codenamed The Preacher) who only posts online – and eliminate him. The Tracker recruits a young, supremely talented hacker to help locate the source of the inflammatory material – he is codenamed Ariel (disappointingly, not The Hacker!)
The constraints put in place by politicians make The Tracker’s job harder – even having located The Preacher, he cannot order a drone strike because it is a built up area. So begins an elaborate plot to bring The Preacher out of his ‘fortress’ into a remote area, where he can be attacked. First, he is discredited in the eyes of his followers, by hacking his website and posting a fake message recanting his previous statements. Second, he is informed by a trusted friend (actually Ariel, aka The Hacker) that a local warlord has kidnapped a westerner and is prepared to sell – executing the man would re-instate his fearsome reputation. Having set the bait, the tracker must recruit a lethal army unit to seek and destroy The Preacher at his meeting with the warlord.
It’s always a pleasure to find a Nelson DeMille in the charity bookshop, and this one was excellent. The main characters are Paul Brenner and Cynthia Sunhill, who are military investigators (the former for homicide, the latter for rape). Their back-story includes an affair in Zurich when they last met and the love/hate relationship resulting from that continues throughout the book.
There are many serious issues raised by this book (such as the role of women in the army and the cover-up of crime in order to avoid bringing the army into disrepute). The author gives Paul Brenner most of the narrative, though, and he is arguably not a character to investigate those bigger issues. His own concern is to find the guilty party and extricate himself and his career from the scene. As ever with books by DeMille, Brenner’s sense of humour and character have much in common with his regular hero, John Corey.
This is a Will Jaeger thriller, in which he battles to prevent the release of a deadly toxin that threatens global calamity, as well as continuing a long search to find his kidnapped wife and son. I haven’t read the first book in this series (Ghost Flight), but the story held together pretty well all the same.
The book had some exciting passages and was an enjoyable read, particularly the battles in the depths of the jungle and the heroics of Jaeger and his team – all areas where Grylls brings his expertise from the SAS to bear. Unfortunately, the climax to the story fell pretty flat for me. On the one hand, I’m willing to believe that a handful of special forces operatives can win a gun fight against a small army of mercenaries (!). On the other, I can’t believe that a source of immunity against a plague can be isolated from a blood specimen, turned into a vaccine, and mass-produced at world scale in just a small number of days/weeks. That incredible feat of bio-engineering certainly deserves more than seven lines in the epilogue (and that’s in a large font)!