Lee Child's NIGHT SCHOOL; Blame It On Tom Cruise

Book Review - Jackie K Cooper

A few years ago I read my first Lee Child novel on the recommendation of a friend whose opinion I valued. That book was titled MAKE ME, a "Jack Reacher" story, and it was an interesting read; not great but it made me interested in reading the next "Jack Reacher" book. That arrived in Child's new novel NIGHT SCHOOL. Once again Jack Reacher is the main character and this one tells of an adventure he had back in 1996.

I don't know why Child decided to leave the present day and go into the pa. Maybe he has before. I have not read all twenty-one of his Reacher stories. Still this caused some confusion on my part as I expected Reacher to have put his military days behind him, but in this story he is still an active duty Army member serving in the Military Police.

At the start of the story Reacher has just been awarded a medal for a a successful mission. His next orders are to a school in the Washington, DC area. When he arrives at the school he finds he and two other men are the only members of the class. One is CIA and one is FBI. They are being secretly ordered to investigate a possible theft of government property which is going to result in a sale worth one hundred million dollars to one of our nation's enemies. Reacher and company are to find out who the buyers are and what item(s) are being sold.

The day to day operation of this assignment makes up the plot of this story, and basically that is not enough to hold the readers' interest. There needs to be something extra special about the characters and/or extra special about the storyline. Child delivers neither. Maybe he can blame it all on Tom Cruise. Child sold his stories to Hollywood and there have been two "Jack Reacher" movies as a result. Cruise starred as Reacher in both.

In the right role in the right movie Cruise is an okay actor. He is not the right actor to play Jack Reacher and he proves it every time he takes on the role. A bigger problem for Child is that when you read a Reacher book you have Tom Cruise in mind for the man. When Child stresses how tall and solid Reacher is, it doesn't ring true because we have the image of smallish Cruise who is definitely a lightweight. So lay the blame in Cruise.

Even doing that does not take away the fact Child has written a fairly blah book. The story doesn't come alive on the pages and the cast of characters are of no consequence. Since it is all set twenty years ago the reader knows no major harm to the country is going to occur.

I will give Child one more chance but if his next novel doesn't give me more reading entertainment than the two I have read, he is three strikes and I am out of here.

NIGHT SCHOOL is published by Delacourte Press. It contains 384 pages and sells for $28.99.

Jackie K Cooper