By Simon Demetriou
In keeping with my apparently unavoidable tendency to do things the wrong way round, my first Jack Reacher novel also happens to be the latest of the 28 that Lee Child (now in the process of handing the character over to his younger brother, Andrew, who shares writing credit on The Secret) has written. Picking up a Reacher novel was a direct consequence of recently completing the second season of Reacher and feeling that my life would be rather sadly lacking in make-believe violence for the immediate future. Thankfully, while The Secret falls rather short as a piece of art compared to the TV series, it has more than enough righteous brutality and storytelling velocity to mean that there’s a part of me that would like to be able to sit down and work through novels one to 27.
When scientists who were involved in a top-secret biological weapons project that went wrong in India in 1969 start dying, one man has a great deal to lose. That man is Charles Stamoran, now the US Secretary of Defence, then a leading light in the CIA and director of the failed programme along with many others like it. To try and find out who is murdering his former associates, he calls together a four-person taskforce manned by once-highly-thought-of but now disposable members of the army, FBI, CIA and Treasury Department. You won’t be surprised to know that the army’s representative on the force is Jack Reacher, recently demoted from Major to Captain and busy investigating inventory tampering in Illinois.
You’d think that a man with as much to hide and with as much access to information as Stamoran would realise that hiring Reacher to investigate something that would inevitably turn up his own culpability is a bad idea. Stamoran doesn’t, and a good job too, because then we wouldn’t have nearly as much entertainment in seeing Reacher tear down everything and everyone who stands between him and the truth. Simultaneously, the two women who are murdering the scientists keep up their rampage (aided by the very sexist assumption of all but Reacher that our skilled murderers must be men) but the question of whether they are the good guys or the bad guys remains unanswered until the very end.
For those of you that, like me, have enjoyed Reacher on TV, expect less well-drawn characters and a plot that is less intricate and engaging than those of the two seasons made so far. But, if what you want is a massive, bloody angel of righteousness doing a whole lot of bloodily righteous stuff leading to a bloody and righteous conclusion, you’ll not be too disappointed by The Secret.