Book Review: Night School, by Lee Child

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_night_school“In the morning they gave him a medal, and in the afternoon they sent him back to school.”

Night School is Lee Child’s twenty-first novel in the Jack Reacher collection. (It’s debatable about referring to the Reacher books as a series, as they’re not serial in Jack’s timeline. On Mr Child’s website On Mr Child’s website you will find  Jack’s chronological order for reading the titles, below the list of the titles in order of publication.) It is set in 1999. If Mr Child’s wanted to keep Jack Reacher fans happy, then this – his twenty-first Reacher book in the growing collection – has certainly achieved its purpose.

In Night School, Jack is made invisible by sending him to training school – where he finds two other ‘students’. All are invisible to personnel in the Military Police, the FBI and the CIA. The three agents are to work a clandestine investigation into all possible threats, reporting only to the National Security Advisor to the President, through his senior deputy Dr. Marian Sinclair who briefs them: An Iranian (a double agent) living with three Saudis in a safe house in Hamburg, has reported a message carried by a courier “The American wants one hundred million dollars”. Their job: to learn what is being offered, worth that price. There are two rules: Rule number two: talk to no one – except Sinclair. Rule number one: do not burn the Iranian asset. Reacher brings in Sergeant Frances Neagley, and heads to Hamburg to find out what they can.

Soon after arriving, they are called back to McLean, where they are briefed on a possible product – a Trojan virus has just appeared on the black market: it can override the patch coding for ensuring computer systems correctly handle the millennium clock change – the Y2K threat – and stop computer clocks at any moment. The team’s focus now is to track down who could be arranging that Trojan’s sale. Who more likely than a geek? And a convention of coders was held in Hamburg at the time of the message being reported. The team sift through records of Americans attending the convention, turning up one ex-pat American living in Hamburg. News comes in of a Hamburg police report from a witness to an agitated meeting between an American and a “middle-eastern” man. Tracking movements of American military moves, Reacher & Neagley discover three serving in Germany have gone AWOL – one for four months. Reacher & Neagley are ordered back to Hamburg, with pics of all american geeks for that witness to id.

The investigation continues, with Child giving snippets of the actions of other parties in the plot, building up the complexity of the case, and allowing readers to visualise locations and character, and foresee possible events – yet there are still surprises. Action scenes are defined crisply, with realistically timed reading pace matched with movement. Threats on the side build tension, and the engrossed reader will surmise the worst scenario possible; resist the urge.

All in all, a satisfying read, from the opening to the resolution. Reacher fans and new readers alike will become engrossed in this book, being released globally on November 7.

Reviewed by Lynne McAnulty-Street

Night School
by Lee Child
Published by Bantam Press
ISBN: 9780593073902

Book Review: The Method, by Shannon Kirk

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_methodShannon Kirk’s novel won the 2015 National Indie Excellence Award for best suspense, and the novel is now under option for a major motion film. Previously released in the US under the title Method 15/33, this is one heck of a good read.

FBI Special Agent Roger Liu is allocated the case (# 332578) of a missing pregnant teen, Dorothy Salucci. His partner and he follow leads and interview the parents and the young father. Liu has a personal need to focus on child abduction cases, his unusual partner understands, and as their sometimes unorthodox methods get results they’re left to get on with it.

But for most of the thriller, we are in the head of Dorothy, the victim. Far from hapless, with her habits, abilities, and how she processes her situation, she is a fascinating character. She has a method and uses it to cope, to learn, to devise her own getaway plans and plot her later revenge.

Does she get away? That would be telling, but certainly not before Liu uncovers a surprise or two. Not before our victim discovers there is more than one perpetrator involved. And not before being forced to face a gruesome foresight of her future. Through all this, we don’t see the real picture, which is a tragic reveal.

This is a thriller that is chilling right to the end.

Reviewed by Lynne McAnulty-Street

The Method
by Shannon Kirk
Published by Sphere
ISBN: 9780751564310

Published in the US as Method 15/33 by Oceanview Publishing, Florida.

Book Review: Killing Season, by Mason Cross

cv_killing_seasonAvailable in bookstores nationwide.

Carter Blake is a bit of a mystery. He specialises in locating people who don’t want to be
found, and certainly has skills and thought processes to make him good at his job. Hang on, it’s not a job – he’s not employed salary-wise – he accepts contracts, so he’s a free agent. We don’t know Blake’s background – is he ex-police? Ex-military? Ex-secret service?

Blake is called in by the FBI to assist in locating a death row escapee, serial killer Caleb Wardell. SAC Walter F Donaldson sets Dave Edwards (“Assistant Special Agent”) in charge of the man hunt, with Special Agent Elaine Banner to work with Edwards and Blake. Unsurprisingly when you get to know him, Blake prefers to use his own methods. Banner sticks with him as he heads in the directions he’s certain Wardell would have taken, while Edwards stubbornly takes the conservative, tried-and-true procedures and heads in the wrong direction.

There is some intriguing interplay with the Russian mobsters, whose attempt to free Wardell’s transport companion gave Wardell the opportunity to get away. They’re not too pleased about Wardell killling their objective either. Blake works by getting inside the head of the one to be caught. But, as Wardell is in his own head first, Blake arrives at the right locations at the wrong time: too late to prevent a murder or massacre. Wardell enjoys both – a particular target or a random set of victims. Mix in bad politics, manipulation of Wardell himself – and his of Blake, and a fake FBI agent, and you have a pot-pourri of things rotten.

What makes this a great book is Cross letting us see different characters’ points of view – it adds to one’s understanding of the character, and of his/her motivation and processing of the events. It’s a method well handled, and I will definitely be looking for the next novel.) (Killing Season is the first of a Carter Blake series, so there’s your reason for buying it as well as the second novel, The Samaritan, expected in 2015.)

Reviewed by Lynne McAnulty-Street

Killing Season
by Mason Cross
Published by Orion Books
ISBN 9781409145677 paperback
Also available as hard cover and ebook editions