Make Me by Lee Child

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Make Me by Lee Child

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Lesley Mason
Reviewed by Lesley Mason
Summary: Lee Child at his absolute best delivers a classic: stopping off in a remote prairie town on a whim, leads ex-military cop Jack Reacher into a quest for truth with the usual amount of murder, mayhem and sinister characters along the way. Wide open landscapes, silent townsfolk and a secret that goes a lot deeper than he ever imagined.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 496 pages Date: March 2016
Publisher: Bantam
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0857502681

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Keever is dead. We know this from the outset, because in the opening lines of Make Me he is being buried under the hog pen. There are reasons for this, not least because the ground is already churned up by the hogs, and anywhere else in this vast mid-west expanse of wheat fields would be terribly visible from the air.

Jack Reacher doesn't know Keever is dead, but then again, when he gets off the train in the middle of nowhere calling itself Mothers Rest he's never heard of Keever. He gets off because of the name of the place. If you've read the preceding works of Coventry-born Lee Child, you'll know that Reacher is something of a trouble magnet. For now though, he's just drifting. Nowhere to go and a lifetime to get there in. Why not follow a whim, and see if he can find out the truth behind that name. Stories occur to him, maybe someone on a wagon train headed west finally breathed her last and there'd be a headstone somewhere abouts; or maybe an expectant woman took her ease and gave birth here; or maybe something else again.

As it turns out no-one seems to know. As it turns out, Reacher still has the knack of walking straight into some-one else's trouble. A woman is waiting for the train, despite it being five hours late, and midnight. The man she's waiting for didn't get off. She'll be back again next morning.

Not long after that she and Reacher will be on a quest to find her missing colleague, delving into the depths of the web, and trying to get to the truth of a hint at 200 deaths.

As I've said before, if you've only come across Reacher in the cinema, forget that. And read this. The official biog tells us that our hero is ex-US-military police, born : October 29; measurements: 6'5", 220-250 lbs., 50" chest with dirty-blond hair and ice blue eyes. Somewhere it also tells us that his clothing sizes are: 3XLT coat, 95 cm. pants' inseam. Clothing isn't important to Reacher – he wears it until it's unwearable, and then buys new. He figures the saving on laundry makes this feasible. He travels lighter than you could possibly imagine.

This is the 20th outing for our man, who is not quite a hero, not quite an anti-hero. He's been a lawman of sorts; he now operates mostly outside of the law. Blood on his hands? Only the wrong kind, the kind that you might argue was justifiably spilt. Broken bones? Many of his own as well as those of what, for want of a better word, we'll call "the opposition". Reacher is the kind of hero that maybe we all secretly wish was allowed to roam the world, but who would no doubt, in reality, be caught, tried and in many a U.S. state get sentenced to death.

If you're still wondering if you should read this book, go into an old fashioned book store and pick up a copy of the paperback. Open the cover and read the endorsements from Patricia Cornwell, James Patterson, Karin Slaughter, Susan Hill, Michael Connelly, Ken Follett, Stephen King, Joanne Harris, Lucy Mangan, Malcolm Gladwell and Frederick Forsyth. If the list alone doesn't convince you… well, what more can I say?

I can tell you…

For one thing, you don't have to have read any of the previous stories to enjoy this one. You can pick up on the Reacher saga anywhere along the line. Dive right in. Each story is complete unto itself and you'll be drip-fed as much of the back story as matters, in the most natural plot-right way, so that you won't necessarily clock that it's happening.

Child can plot! Just about the only unbelievable thing about JR is that he keeps getting away with it. Everything else is entirely feasible. He even finds sufficient ill-gotten gains along the way that you don't mind him appropriating, so you don't even have to wonder how he's funding his mendicant life-style.

Feasible it might be, but that doesn't stop it being deeply disturbing. The fact that this could actually happen – ok, maybe with slightly less good weaponry – but for the rest, it could actually be happening right now, is part of what makes it so readable.

It is violent and it is sexy, but Child has mastered the art of both. He plays by Hitchcock's rules and gives you the absolute minimum you need to make the rest up yourself. Not only is Child an intelligent writer, he trusts the intelligence of his readers which is part of what makes the writing so sharp.

Ah yes, the writing. We might pretend (Ms Mangan) that we're in love with Reacher and that if we can't shag him, we want to BE him and I wouldn't necessarily disagree with that on any level, but the fact is the real reason it all works so well is not what is written, but the way it is written. Creative writing tutors will argue either that it is all about plot or all about character. I'm going to have the temerity to argue with both propositions. It is about so much more than that.

We want to be Reacher, or be with him, not just because of the man that he is and the adventures that unfold around him, but primarily because Child manages to keep us gripped to page for the duration. Read enough poorly-written books and you'll learn that what does that is neither plot nor character, it is word-craft. Child is a master-craftsman. Take his description of something as humble as waiting room seats:-

The benches were magnificent. They could have been a hundred years old. They were made from solid mahogany, upright and severe, only grudgingly sculpted to the human form, and polished to a shine by use. Reacher picked a spot and sat down. The contour felt better than it should . The shape was stern and puritan but it was very comfortable. The woodworker had done a fine subtle job. Or maybe the wood itself had given up the struggle and instead of fighting back had yielded and moulded and learned to embrace. From all the shapes and sizes, with all their masses and temperatures. Literally steamed and pressed like an industrial process in super-slow motion. Was that possible with wood as hard as mahogany? Reacher didn't know.

A paragraph about a bench should be out of place in a thriller, but it's not. Not only does it give us a sense of place, this old-world out-of-the-way place with its ancient furniture, but by those final three words, gives us another insight into character, by suggesting that the meandering thought has been Reacher's.

As for the discourse on Einstein's famous equation which should prove that your phone is heavier for each song you load onto it, I'm prepared to believe it.

Although telling the tale in the third person from an all-knowing narrative perspective, Child doesn't feel the need to give everyone names and total personalities. Many of his bad guys remain cyphers against which the hero can rise. Who cares who they are, given what they're doing? It's a neat trick to keep us on side, but it's smartly handled by repetition the man with the ironed jeans and the blow-dried hair, the Moynahan who had gotten kicked in the balls and had is gun taken and phrases like them are used again and again. Subtle variations on the wording, but essentially the same. It's almost like a screenplay, emphasising the visual.

He doesn't just write fights, he choreographs them. Walks you through the plan, walks you through the way it pans out – not always the same thing. Sharp. Intentional. Crisp.

Not a niggle in sight from me this time. I loved this one from start to finish…which was no time at all.

If you're only now hearing about this series, we can heartily recommend Personal – or elsewhere in thriller-land and as far away from the prairies as it's possible to get, why not head over to London for In the Dark by Mark Billingham.

Lee Child's Jack Reacher Novels in Chronological Order

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Buy Make Me by Lee Child at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Make Me by Lee Child at


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