Featured Review: ‘Past Tense’ by Lee Child


Past TenseAs summer comes to a close, Jack Reacher prepares for colder weather the only way he knows how, by setting out on an epic, cross-country trip that’ll take him from Maine all the way to California. . . but things don’t go according to plan. 

Much like the birds swirling above, Reacher begins his long migration south from the top right-hand corner of the country to the bottom left by heading to Syracuse. From there, he plans to breeze through Cincinnati, St. Louis, Oklahoma City, and Albuquerque before ultimately reaching his destination: San Diego.  

While hitching a ride to Boston, the man driving Reacher has to unexpectedly turn back after a business deal begins to fall apart and needs his attention. They’d only made it to New Hampshire, so rather than backtrack, Reacher says goodbye, hops out and begins walking. Eventually, fate brings him to a Y in the road. Heading right will take him to Portsmouth, which has plenty of bus stops, highways, and suitable hotels. Going left will take him out of the way, to a little town called Laconia — which just so happens to be where his father is from, a place Reacher’s never seen. 

Giving himself a day to explore, Reacher heads left and, as readers might expect, trouble, as it always seems to do, quickly finds him. 

Meanwhile, Patty and Shorty, a young couple from Canada, head to New York City carrying mysterious cargo inside a suitcase that’s said to be quite valuable. After their car breaks down, they come across an inn that, at best, can be described as a creepy Motel 6, but this ain’t the kind of place where they leave the light on for you. In fact, it’s just the opposite, and soon the couple finds themselves being held against their will and surrounded by danger. 

Reacher, while trying to locate his extended family, has a few run-ins and dust-ups with unsavory types, including a guy who has connections to some wealthy, powerful people who threaten Reacher and tell him to get lost or else. Still living his life as a drifter, Reacher is always on the move, but he’s not about to run from anyone. Especially when he’s trying to track his genealogy back to Laconia, but can’t find any official record of anyone named Reacher ever having lived there. 

As the story unfolds, two main questions emerge. . . why can’t Reacher find any trail of his father’s family in Laconia, and what on earth is in Patty and Shorty’s bag? Things come into focus once Child expertly weaves both storylines together, leading to an explosive final act that moves at breakneck speeds and has enough action to dazzle even the pickiest thrill-seekers. 

Jack Reacher is an intimidating figure, and Lee Child’s quick-witted, fast-paced style lends itself perfectly to his larger-than-life hero. Longtime readers of the series will pick up on an eerie vibe early on that’s reminiscent of Child’s first novel, The Killing Floor (1997), while also relishing the chance to finally learn a little more about the mysterious, Hulk-sized nomad who’s captivated readers for two decades. There’s no sense in reinventing the wheel when, in this case, the wheel happens to be one of the most popular franchises in print. That said, Child does continue to do an excellent job keeping his series fresh by throwing new challenges at Reacher, who is both smart enough to work through any problem he faces and big enough to smash through them at will. 

Whenever Jack Reacher shows up, three things are virtually guaranteed to happen: Trouble will come knocking, Reacher will answer, and readers will enjoy the heck out of watching him pick the bad guys apart one by one.

Lee Child delivers another winner with Past Tensea rip-roaring thriller that mixes action and suspense in a way that only he seems to be able to pull off. 

Book Details

Author: Lee Child
Series: Jack Reacher #23
Pages: 400 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0399593519
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: November 5, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 8.5/10



Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.

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