Make Me, by Lee Child
Published: September 2015
The 20th instalment in the Jack Reacher series is a return-to-force for the hermetic brawler. Having lost his way in the previous book, which complicated his particular mission with double and triple crosses and diluted the all-American playground, so often a strength of Lee Child’s writing, with a cartoon London and lanky gangsters living in giant houses, Make Me is a refreshing story that doesn’t disappoint.
Make Me is Child at his finest because it begins with Reacher and a name, Mother’s Rest. Long-time Reacher readers will know the backstory, but even newbies can appreciate and respect the need for Reacher to get off a train and spend the night in place called Mother’s Rest simply because it is an odd name for a town, even one in the middle of nowhere. A often-levelled criticism of Reacher novels has been realism—would a man really wonder America for years and get into so much trouble?—but that is easily set aside in Make Me, because Reacher is back to his curious best.
A private investigator has gone missing and his partner is in need of a friend. Add to the mystery a town that seems eager to be rid of the duo and odd strangers staying at the only motel for, what seems, their last nights on Earth, and Reacher thrives. The novel eventually moves on from Mother’s Rest as Child drives the plot forward and unravels the mystery. There is the Deep Web, overweight Russian gangsters and some much needed downtime for Reacher, all woven together expertly before the return to Mother’s Rest for the big reveal, which is shockingly violent and sad.
Where Make Me is at its strongest is the fight scenes. Child slows everything right down so that the reader can be given a blow-by-blow account of the violence, and it’s always expertly balanced between Reacher winning or losing. The description given to a headbutt that Reacher delivers to a Russian assassin is a particular treat, because the reader can truly appreciate that there isn’t much left of the man’s face afterwards, given that Reacher took a three-foot swing to deliver it and had to stop himself headbutting the floor on the follow-through, due to the force applied. Ouch.
Make Me ends abruptly, as Reacher novels always do, but an ongoing relationship between a female investigator and Reacher in future novels is teased. It could be a job for the big man, or is he finally ready to settle down? Only the 21st book will tell, and here’s hoping that Child keeps Reacher doing what he does best—getting his retaliation in first.