With rare exceptions, Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels tend to follow a familiar formula: in the words of Malcolm Gladwell, they “involve, invariably, Reacher tumbling across some kind of malevolent conspiracy in the American heartland and killing everyone involved.” Make Me follows this formula to a T, but there are some especially disturbing twists in the latest chapter of the Reacher saga. One of the pleasures of reading a Child novel is that you know Reacher will wind up conquering the bad guys, often in partnership with a kick-ass female counterpart whom he loves and leaves after he’s saved the day. (Reacher, like Papa, is a rolling stone.) But Make Me suggests Reacher may be mortal after all.
As usual, Reacher just happens to stumble upon a nightmarish crime and, since he has nothing better to do, get involved in solving it. He is riding the train across the vast, empty prairies and decides on a whim to disembark at the small town of Mother’s Rest, mainly because he’s curious about the origin of the name. Figuring there must be a museum or commemorative stone, he instead runs into a woman named Michelle Chang, an ex-FBI agent turned private investigator looking for her missing partner. Keever disappeared from Mother’s Rest without a trace, before he could brief Chang about exactly what was going on. Reacher decides to help her out, and together, they discover the horrible truth about the town.
At one point, they team up with a Los Angeles Times reporter who seems to have the world’s largest expense account (it turns out getting to the bottom of the Mother’s Rest conspiracy requires a lot of travel), but primarily it’s the two of them against the world. Reacher suffers a concussion in a confrontation with a hired goon, and while he usually shakes off his injuries, this one proves to be frustratingly persistent. Chang also seems a little less disposable than the women he’s dealt with in the past. Does Make Me mark a turning point for the long-lived (this is book #20) series? We’ll have to wait a while to find out, as the next book (coming out this fall) is a prequel, set during an earlier period in Reacher’s life.
I tore through Make Me in a couple days, helped along by the fact that it’s been relentlessly rainy, and what better to do on a wet weekend than curl up with a book? However, when I got to the big reveal of what was actually happening in Mother’s Rest, I will admit that it was a million times more shocking than anything I could ever have imagined. I woke up in the middle of the night after I finished the book, suffused with a feeling of dread. That may or may not count as a recommendation; I don’t know. It depends on if you want to read a book that may literally haunt your dreams.