Author: Grant Blackwood

Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons

For some time now, I’ve felt the Tom Clancy estate isn’t doing Clancy’s legacy any favors by all those continuation novels written by other authors. True, Clancy himself started it all by creating franchises like Net Force, Splintered Cell, and Ops Center bringing in other authors to pump out new adventures in each of those series. It worked well enough for many years, but I admit when the Ops Center series was rebooted, I began to feel all these yarns were becoming paint-by-numbers formulas.

The flagship series was, of course, the Jack Ryan books followed by the Jack Ryan, Jr. novels. Jack Ryan, Jr., became a major character in 2003’s Teeth of the Tiger, which was also the introduction to The Campus, a private covert ops organization using the cover of Hendly Associates which funds the operation. In the eight books that followed, seven of which were co-written or fully authored by Mark Greaney, Ryan Jr. is part of the team sent out by the Campus normally battling terrorists or the Russians while Ryan Sr. is president except for the term when Ed Kealty sits in the White House.

While Jack Jr. is ostensibly signed on as a desk-bound analyst for The Campus, he soon joins Brian and Dominic Caruso in killing terrorists out in the field. In 2010’s Dead or Alive, John Clark and Ding Chavez join the team, and the series then very much centers on this ensemble cast. In 2015, Grant Blackwood contributed Dead or Alive to the series and then Duty and Honor this year, but his new volume has little of the flavor of any previous Ryan outing.

For one matter, Jack Jr. is on an extended “sabbatical” from The Campus so the entire supporting cast is missing. For another matter, this version of Jack Jr. is more than foolish and reckless from beginning to end—most of his choices are described as impulsive and many make little sense considering the training and connections established in the previous books. The plot is equally nonsensical with none of the scope of any previous Clancy novel starring his principal characters. “Duty”? Duty to who? Most of the storyline is Junior on a personal mission he doesn’t understand. “Honor”? How so? What honor is being upheld when Junior is seeking some assassin who is out to kill him but who balks at carrying out the deed?

The story opens up a bit, if not with an attractive supporting cast of characters, as Junior investigates the European Union’s private security firm, Rostock Security Group, and its founder, Jürgen Rostock. There’s a string of corpses as Ryan uncovers the truth behind Rostock’s benevolent face as catastrophic events are being planned.

What is most surprising about this disappointing book is that Grant Blackwood has a pretty good track record with scribing thrillers, including co-authorship with Clive Cussler. Judging from reviews at Amazon, few readers have any idea how this drop in quality came about. The good news is that Jack Ryan Sr. and Mark Greaney return this December in Tom Clancy True Faith and Allegiance. Perhaps there’s life in the literary epic yet, even as Amazon is preparing a TV series showcasing Jack Ryan. Stay tuned. But jump over Duty and Honor—a low ebb in an otherwise essential saga.