Thrillerkolumne

Thriller ohne Leserstrahlen ist wie Spenser ohne Boston, Behr ohne Indianapolis, Reacher ohne Army, Rain ohne Judo, Parker ohne Plan, Bolitar ohne Win, Forsythe ohne Whisky, McGee ohne Florida, Hank ohne Baseball, Duffy ohne Beemer...

CHILD, Night School (2/5)

Try Again

- This Reacher novel is set in the past with Jack Reacher still being a MP with the U. S. Army in the 90s. The World Trade Center attacks of 1993 left a very nervous clandestine services family looking for new ways to encounter new threats. To face these threats three capable men from different law enforcement agencies are brought together in one classroom. What for none of them knows.


The famous port of Hamburg
The Jack Reacher series has always been my gold standard for fast paced and at the same time tricky thrillers. To be fair: It’s a high standard. Unfortunately, this episode definitely falls short to meet this standard. The story is assembled like all Reacher stories are and, come on, you know what I mean even though none of us can do it quite like Child. However, the details are not as surprising and detailed as they usually are. I felt that Child had fallen short of his potential and here is (paired with some spoilers) why. Somehow, the plot fell thin once Child had identified the perpetrators who were not the 9/11 evil doers. The obvious conclusion was that another sinister plot (ten tactical nukes christened “Davy Crocketts” as it turned out) were the threat.


Here is what I miss: There is no mystery that can be solved mathematically or by logical deduction: Where are Reacher’s extraordinary math skills? Where is his internal clock? Where are the central hints or questions or anecdotes that appears again and again? It all begins so promising in the facility where he meets the FBI and the CIA guy – but they have no significant role in the further proceedings.


The Hamburg setting of the story is interesting and it obviously hints at the sleeper cell around that time. But, there are some flaws in the details when it comes to the book’s German. One time a Hamburg cop orders a “liter” of beer. Too much! That’s Bavaria you’re thinking of. A Hamburger prefers “Halbe”. Also, the names are too amusing to be real: one of the crooked GIs obviously fake a passport with the name of Klaus Augenthaler – like the legendary football player and coach. Then there is also a completely mysterious section in which Reacher and Neagley find the ID of the NSC person in the elevator which turns out to be a fake – but in the plot this is never connected to anything in the bigger picture. Anyways, these are all acceptable flaws in comparison to the central weakness of this novel which obviously is the secret Nazi movement.

This highly unrealistic German “movement” is led by some ersatz Hitler. He serves obviously as something like a deus ex machina to move the story forward. I admire Lee Child, but he is a Briton. And there still seems to be a lingering antagonism among Britons to the recreation of a united Germany. This became apparent in 1989-90. It was Kohl and the elder Bush who helped reunification. Thatcher and the French remained in the background. Child's Dremmler character does not convince me of such a following in German Society today or in the 90’s. In fact, I consider it to be a cheap shot.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed the read – but it neither offered the thrill Reacher’s end games always come up with when he attacks or defends something nor the fun parts where his dry “charm” (read: head-butts) and his wits stun his adversaries. In the end I also think that I like Reacher more when he discovers the United States. That has always been a central point to his legend: He is as American as it gets but he never really lived there.
No, this is not Lee Child's best effort. I hope he recovers.

-- 
CHILD, Lee, Night School, 2016 (Jack Reacher #21)