Make Me what? I wondered. Pie? A happier person? Or did it mean “make me” as in that wonderful idea for fun in a Tube station, where you miss the train and mutter into your sleeve “I think he made me. He’s switched trains."
Well, it’s an unsolved mystery, like most Lee Child titles these days. This is one of the third person Reachers, because the way Lee Child wants to tell this story we have to see misleading bits of the action which Reacher can’t see. Spoiler alert; Reacher lives. All the bad guys die. If you didn’t see that coming, you might not have read any of these books up to now, or, indeed, a book.
Reacher does a bit more travelling this time than he usually does. Of course, it’s yet another book in which the drifter rolls into a creepy small town, sniffs something funny, and then has to smoosh a whole bunch of bad guys into paste, but along the way he rattles around the US trying to find some of his answers. Maybe because I was reading it hard on the heels of a Thomas Perry book, I was struck by the way that Reacher is obsessed with telling little details and makes up all kinds of ideas based on them. And I was taken with the way that some of the ideas are wrong - one of the advantages of going third person this time is that Reacher gets to be wrong without ever finding out one way or another. That’s a problem which doesn’t get enough attention in thrillers, where the hero’s finely tuned instincts are invariably spot on and never ever result in shooting the wrong guy by mistake.
And what horrible conspiracy lies at the heart of all this? Well, it’s creepy as all get out while being completely preposterous. The final twist is based on the idea of a working market in something which has never been proven to exist, a persistent bogeyman that I sometimes think was conjured up to give us something worse than reality at a time when reality is quite depressing enough all on its own. Bonus points for an explanation of the internet that has a bit of poetry to it; all immediately deducted for not being able to tell the difference between stuff people aren’t interested in, and stuff where the interest is strong enough to involve money. I was a bit disappointed, since I’d been working out my own idea of what it might all be about and it was much more benign and ambiguous.
Then again, the bad guys had to be really wrong 'uns, since Reacher’s on fine no-prisoners form this time around, killing people like it ain’t even a thing. For the whole idea of heroism to work, he has to be going after people who are even more sociopathic than that, so Child had his work cut out to make him look comparatively good. At two different points, Child even hangs a lampshade on it, prefacing an off-ing with a little homily about how in tales around the campfire, an execution aways comes with a speech about how the bad guy had it coming, but when you’re Jack Reacher in a hurry and someone just needs to be dead, there’s no need for talk. Tuco put it more pithily.
The only novelty in the book is … concussion. Reacher’s cleaned up evil conspiracies to commit mass murder before. He’s cleaned up small creepy towns in the American midwest before. He’s bonked the token plot-woman before. But he’s never experienced concussion in any of the books before. It doesn’t slow him up in any way that really matters, but at least for once in fiction someone gets hit in the head and doesn’t just motor on as though nothing has happened. That might not be enough new ground for you when pondering your reading choices.