Whodunit: A strange mission for young Jack Reacher
Lee Child’s latest Jack Reacher novel, Night School, is set in 1996, when Reacher is serving in the Army, before the fall of the World Trade Center, before the widely anticipated but happily unrealized Y2K meltdown. After earning a medal for a deep-cover “wet work” mission, Reacher receives an unusual follow-up assignment to attend a small class, three members only: an FBI agent, a CIA analyst and Reacher himself. It quickly becomes evident that the “school” is anything but, and its students find themselves tasked with the rather amorphous mission of stopping a clandestine $100 million terrorist-related action that may or may not be happening. The problem is, $100 million is a strange amount: not nearly enough to buy an arsenal of large weaponry, but much more than would be required to buy all the small weaponry readily available on the black market at any given time. What havoc could an international terrorist organization wreak with the leverage that amount of money would provide? As with all Child novels, one of the major characters, albeit a background one, is the relentlessly ticking clock, and it has rarely ticked more loudly.
Joe Ide. Remember that name. It’s easy, only six letters. And IQ—while you’re at it, remember that name, too. If there is ever a competition for the shortest author/title combo, this would win, hands down. But mystery aficionados will remember it as the breakout debut of a major new voice in the suspense genre. Isaiah Quintana, the titular IQ, is an unlicensed private investigator, a modern-day Easy Rawlins doing “favors for friends” at deeply discounted rates (in one case, a casserole; in another, a radial tire for his Audi). Once in a while, though, he lands a paying case, and his latest promises a fat payday upon completion, assuming that he lives to collect. His task: identify and bring to justice the party that organized an unsuccessful, albeit highly original, hit on Calvin Wright, aka rapper Black the Knife. IQ approaches problems much in the manner of Sherlock Holmes or Lincoln Rhymes, attacking it with his intellect and observation skills rather than his fists. Well, at least before using his fists. Ide is the real deal, and IQ is the best debut I’ve read this year.
BOSCH’S NEW VENTURE
Harry Bosch has gone through several iterations over the course of Michael Connelly’s iconic series: L.A. cop; disgraced L.A. cop; widely loathed L.A. ex-cop; private cop; and now, for the time being, temp cop for the small San Fernando police department. It’s an unpaid gig, but it lets Bosch keep his hand in the game. As The Wrong Side of Goodbye gathers steam, Bosch is balancing two cases: one for the SFPD, to ferret out the serial rapist known as the Screen Cutter; and one for his growing PI business, to locate a dying billionaire’s last remaining heir. Although these divergent storylines have no direct correlation, they will have an impact on one another, in that they compete for Bosch’s hours and attention, and both have some seriously time-sensitive and even life-threatening aspects. A segment of the narrative casts Bosch’s memory back to his time spent in Vietnam during the war years, stirring up ghosts he thought were long since buried. It is a disturbing and yet cathartic tale-within-a-tale that proves once again what a master storyteller Connelly is.
TOP PICK IN MYSTERY
An amusing artifact of my last 10 years living in Tokyo: I was reading Keigo Higashino’s Under the Midnight Sun, and as I got 50 or 60 pages in, I suddenly realized I knew exactly what was going to happen. This was not my imagination but rather my memory, as I had seen the 2010 Japanese film adaptation of Higashino’s book. The film, titled Into the White Night, hewed remarkably closely to the book, which had not been translated into English at that time. For many—myself included—Under the Midnight Sun is Higashino’s masterpiece (thus far, at least). It is the story of the 1973 killing of a smalltime Osaka pawnbroker in a derelict building; although the police have their suspicions, none of the early leads ever quite pan out. As the next 19 years unfold, related via successive narratives from a number of different characters, the primary investigator remains stymied and annoyed by his lack of success in solving the case. And then he begins to notice a disturbing trend: a series of mysterious deaths, each in some way connected to the pawnbroker’s son and the chief suspect’s daughter, both of whom were kids when he first met them. Under the Midnight Sun has spawned not only the aforementioned film but a TV series and a Korean movie as well. It is finally available in English, and that, folks, is a big deal.
This article was originally published in the November 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.