Written by Lee Child — Baggage. Where would crime fiction protagonists be without it? There’s no doubt it plays a huge part in defining the ever-growing cast of flawed heroes and heroines that people our favourite reads.
Jack Reacher is different though. He’s a man who carries no baggage, of either the mental or physical variety. Which is why, in his 20th print outing, we find our great hulking hero riding a train to who knows where. Reacher is at a loose end. He has no place special to go, nowhere he needs to be, no commitments to keep, and a whole bundle of time to fill.
So, he gets off the train at the first place that takes his fancy. Mother’s Rest is an intriguing name and Jack’s quickly formulated plan is go and find out the history behind it, no more, no less. It’s a one-horse town in the middle of nowhere, a one-day stopover at most. However, a chance meeting with a woman who is waiting in vain for a missing colleague is enough to keep him there indefinitely.
Annoyingly, the more Reacher explores Mother’s Rest, the less he knows about the place. The shifty-eyed locals are giving nothing away – not even how the town got its name. There’s definitely something off, and as Reacher fans know, Jack hates it when something is off… Prepare to see a man taken out of his comfort zone as the decidedly low-tech Reacher finds himself in the murky depths of the Deep Web (and even has to use a mobile phone – gasp!).
There are some things I really love about Jack Reacher. The way he comes up with cunning plans, a la Blackadder’s Baldrick, for example; his unending love affair with the coffee pot; his unerring ability to attract trouble; and of course, his single set of clothes (a completely alien concept, as far as I’m concerned). What I don’t like so much is the way that he always comes out on top. Throughout Make Me, Reacher finds himself in all sorts of tricky situations and it isn’t a case of will he get out, but how?
It’s a book packed to the rafters with Lee Child’s trademark snappy dialogue, and I thoroughly enjoyed the interplay between Jack and former FBI special agent-turned-private investigator Michelle Chang. The action scatterguns around the country, from Oklahoma City to Phoenix and LA, keeping the reader guessing as the plot unfolds.
The set pieces are reminiscent of the old-style stranger-rolls-into-town Western movies and are described in such cinematic detail that you almost expect someone to shout ‘cut’ at the end of a scene. The root ’em, toot ’em violence, roughhousing and gunplay is tempered by a touch of romance and some neat humorous touches – a tricky juggling act that Child carries off with aplomb.
It never ceases to amaze me how a British author can write such convincing American crime thrillers and relentlessly keep up the standard after all this time. A Jack Reacher book is bought somewhere in the world every 20 seconds – an incredible statistic but probably not so surprising when you think about it because Coventry-born Child’s novels consistently take the top spot in the best-sellers lists.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars