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Review: Despite changes, Jack Reacher stays the good course

Last Updated Oct 26, 2020 at 11:56 am EST

This cover image released by Delacorte Press shows "The Sentinel" by Lee Child and Andrew Child. (Delacorte Press via AP)

“The Sentinel,” by Lee Child and Andrew Child (Delacorte Press)

The cover of “The Sentinel,” the 25th thriller in the wildly popular Jack Reacher series, declares that it was written by Lee Child and Andrew Child, but no one by either name actually wrote the book.

Reacher’s creator Lee Child, whose real name is actually Lee Grant, has declared that his days as a novelist are over. Lately, he’s been working with Amazon to develop a Jack Reacher TV show starring Alan Ritchson, an actor as enormous and menacing as the character in the books — a welcome change from the pipsqueak (Tom Cruise) who played the role in two Hollywood movies.

But Reacher, the mythic avenger who wanders the back roads of America like a modern day Lone Ranger, is too popular to fade away, so Grant (aka Child), has turned the series over to his younger brother Andrew Grant, the author of nine thrillers published under his real name.

It is Andrew who wrote most of “The Sentinel,” but because the names “Child” and “Reacher” are forever bound together, he adopted the penname Andrew Child to carry the series into the future.

The change in authors is subtle but detectable. For one thing, the technologically averse Reacher has acquired a cellphone. For another, the hero has become a bit chatty, talking more with other characters and telling readers more about his thinking, including how he maps out hand-to-hand combat in advance with thugs who outnumber him.

The story begins when Reacher wanders into the little town of Pleasantville, Tennessee. There, Rusty Rutherford, a nerdy IT manager, is being blamed for a cyber-attack that wiped out the town’s computer data. After rescuing Rutherford from a kidnapping attempt, Reacher gradually discovers that the seemingly isolated attack is part of a conspiracy to undermine the coming national election. As always, the bad guys — this time, Russian spies and American-Nazi thugs — discover too late that they are no match for Reacher.

Despite the change in authors, the writing remains tight and the non-stop action is as propulsive as ever.

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Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, is the author of the Mulligan crime novels including “The Dread Line.”

Bruce Desilva, The Associated Press