Make Me by Lee Child

When you pick up a Lee Child, Jack Reacher novel, you know you’re in for one rollicking ride and this latest instalment in the series, Make Me, is no exception.

25017440-1Commencing with a train rumbling through the American heartland, the story begins just before it screeches to a halt in a small town called Mother’s Rest. Embarking is none other than our man-with-no-(obvious) baggage, Jack Reacher.

Finding the deceptively sleepy place filled with suspicious folk behaving strangely, and none of whom seem to be able to tell him why the town bears such a sweet appellation, Reacher’s curiosity is piqued. Helping fuel this is the lovely, Michelle Chang, a retired FBI agent who now works privately as an investigator and who happens to be in town because she’s responded to a back up call from her partner, Keever. A big man who resembles Reacher, Keever, it turns out, has gone missing and no-one claims to know where he is.

Teaming up with Chang, Reacher determines to help her find her partner and, if not, at least uncover what happened to him and why. Only, this scant place with the appealing name and odd residents is not what it seems. The further Reacher and Chang delve into Keever’s fate, the less they seem to understand. Barriers are thrown up and hostility greets every enquiry. Left with no choice but to leave Mother’s Rest, they back and forth across the country and in doing so start to piece together a shocking puzzle, one they know they’ll finally solve when they return to where they started.

But that proves harder then they thought. There are those determined to prevent Reacher and Chang from progressing any further, but if there’s one thing Reacher cannot abide, its being told what to do or forced to stop something he’s started, even if he knows what he finds could have deadly consequences…

In the first half, this novel is a slow build that really takes the reader along for the investigative ride. Flanking Reacher and Chang, we patiently sift through the clues, listen to various people reveal or conceal what they know and then follow as Chang and Reacher try to work out how what they’ve learned or found fits (or doesn’t) into the dilemma they’re trying to unravel.

Dogging their every move, their every call, are groups of shady people – assassins, tech experts and those with no other motive than to obey their faceless superiors and do whatever it takes to ensure these two people get no further. With dead bodies either in their wake or awaiting them, Chang and Reacher know time is running out and they must discover the dark secret at the heart of Mother’s Rest and Keever’s disappearance and what it is the citizens of that dozy town will do anything, pay anything, to protect.

When the climax of the novel comes, just what this secret is comes as a terrible shock – not just to Reacher and Chang but to the reader. It was unexpected, horrific at so many levels, and thus the enormity of what the entire investigation and the people involved are about is shown in a new, ghastly and desperate light.

A well-paced read, much like the train that appears and vanishes, the book takes you from one point to another, yet with a visceral thrill running through every page that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Like all Child’s books, Make Me delivers the kind of punch and panic at which he, and his protagonist, are so good.



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The Girl in the Spider’s Web (Millennium Trilogy #4) by David Lagercrantz

Having loved the Stieg Larson books which were hugely successful and resulted in movies in both English and Swedish, I felt ambivalent learning someone else had taken over responsibility for continuing the tale after Larson’s unexpected death. Uber-hacker extraordinaire (and so much more) Lisbeth Salander and journalist-with-a social-conscience Mikael Blomkvist were so much Larson’s creation and so original. Nonetheless, I downloaded the book when it came out a couple of months ago and its been sitting on my kindle till work and other books permitted me a look, a look I was still reluctant to take. Well….

25074850Scanning the reviews on Goodreads after finishing the novel, I feel like some folk read a different book to me (mind you, I often feel that way when reading or discovering other people’s responses to books – it’s why I love both reading and writing so much – how one person’s pleasure can be another’s opposite – it’s just hard when you’re the author and people don’t like your novel – actually, “hard” doesn’t begin to describe it – it’s beyond gut-wrenching, but also as it is and should be. Can you imagine how boring life would be, and how dull art (in its broadest sense), if we all responded the same way to the same things?). Anyway, I digress. In short, I could barely get my nose out of this new addition to the Millennium series.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web, by David Lagercrantz is superb. Some have complained the initial pace of the novel is slow. I didn’t find it that way as I not only loved being reintroduced to the characters I’d grown so fond of years earlier, but I enjoyed the gradual unfolding of the plot. Complicated, in style it’s analogous to the action and motives of some of the characters, the various groups they belong to – whether they’re hackers or legitimate IT specialists – all of whom are trying to navigate and either expose or conceal the secrets of “dark web” and seeking personal and professional gain and glory. For quite a while into the book, the reader remains in the dark as to what the purpose of the story is – what role exactly Mikael and Lisbeth will play. In fact, the story is a little way in before they even appear.

Instead, we’re introduced to new characters: an anti-social but brilliant Professor, Frans Balder, who is working on an AI that will supersede the human mind, his severely autistic son, August, his abused ex-wife and her narcissistic and violent partner and a range of other people.

All these introductions are essential and the back-stories hinted at before being revealed completely relevant, so when the tale proper begins, a tale of espionage, industrial secrets, betrayal, murder, professional jealousy, carers at stake and a sibling rivalry to counter all, the reader is braced with a semi-context that just begs fleshing out – and this is done with grandeur, depth and fine writing. Then, after once the ground rules are established, the characters placed in position, the novel takes off at beak-neck speed and doesn’t relinquish you until beyond the last page.

If you enjoyed Larson’s books and the wild, brilliant and wonderful Lisbeth, and dedicated, ethical and measured Mikael and want to read more of their adventures, then this is the book for you.

I really, really hope Lagercrantz find it in him to write another one or two, because the story isn’t over…2507485025074850

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