GBI Agent Will Trent is working on a cold case: the murder of a sherrif’s deputy in a small Georgia town, twenty-odd years earlier. His most recent lead sends him undercover at Fort Knox, where his alias Jack Phineas Wolfe (no, really), army dropout, is hired to clean the gold. No, that’s what he’s hired to do. For real. Polish gold bars. This is not a euphemism; he’s inside a room with his suspect, polishing bars and getting sweaty.
The suspect, by the way, is Jack Reacher, professional plot device. Will Trent has not seen the Tom Cruise movies so he doesn’t know Reacher is not as bad as he appears, though he does figure it out soon enough; more alarmingly, the behaviour of their superiors points in the direction of other illegal shenanigans, and the two set out to discover what is going on. One of them steals some Skittles on the way.
Full disclosure: I’ve never read a Jack Reacher novel. I’ve only seen the films, which are okay; if you’re Werner Herzog it’s a perfectly acceptable way to make that new kitchen extension happen and though Reacher is built like a brick wall and Cruise, on a good day, more like a particularly sturdy picket fence, I still bought him as Reacher inasmuch as the sort of general credibility issues allowed me. I HAVE read everything Karin Slaughter has written. She writes like Michael Bay if Michael Bay cared about character development. She’s my guilty pleasure. #TeamLena4Ever.
Child and Slaughter are both competent writers, but I’m not sure their writing styles match up all that well. Slaughter has a knack for building lively characters; they’re not all great, but Will Trent is one of the better ones. Her writing style is a bit more verbose and explosive than Child’s, who sometimes reads like a seasoned civil servant who takes a lot of joy in adopting a sarcastic tone in his reports that goes completely over the head of his superiors. It does provide for odd pacing, because the first three quarters is basically Reacher and Trent trying to figure out who the other guy is and then, BOOM, the baddies are in prison and they decide to finish the job just for shits and giggles, I guess.
It does provide for an open ending that I didn’t like at first, but the more I think about it, the more intriguing it becomes. It does leave the door wide open for a sequel. I’d be down for that, even if the writing’s a bit unhinged at times.
For the inevitable film adaptation I’d like to suggest Lee Pace for Will Trent, because he’s over a foot taller than Cruise and it’d crack me up.