Review: Past Tense – Lee Child

Series: Jack Reacher 23

My version: Paperback
Genre: Fiction, Thriller, USA,
Transworld Publishers
First published: 2018
ISBN: 978-0-857-50362-6
Pages: 461

From the cover:
The present can be tense.
Two young Canadians trying to get to New York Coty are stranded at a lonely motel in the middle of nowhere. Before long, they’re trapped in an ominous game of life and death.
But the past can be worse.
Jack Reacher is on an epic road trip across America. He doesn’t get far. Deep in the New England woods, he sees a sign to a place he has never been – the town where his father was born. But when he arrives he is told no one named Reacher ever lived there. Now he wonders: who’s lying?
As the tension ratchets up and these two stories begin to entwine, the stakes have never been higher for Reacher.
That’s for damn sure.

There is, once again, in the post-Tom Cruise-era, much emphasis from the good doctor Child on Reacher’s size. Something Tom Cruise is/was of course, famously short of. Whether this is Lee Child saying that Cruise was chosen to play Reacher against his (Child) better judgement and this is him taking back control, I’m not sure. In this book and the previous one, where sizeism as obvious digs at poor Tom Cruise have been prominent, I’m thinking ” Well, you signed off on it, Mr C!” But, there we are. Reacher is back to his big-handed, big feeted, bold and wordless best.

And there’s the next thing. The dialogue. Or lack of it. Or when it comes, when there is something to say, the constant looking at it from every possible angle is really wearing thin now. I’m sure LC thinks he’s raising the tension levels to unbearable, but I can assure him, he ain’t. He’s doing the precise opposit. Tension extraction. Successful tensionorectomy. Here, I did detect signs of inspiration (not only from his previous books “You know what? I’m gonna right about a small town with strange inhabitants, set in the middle of nowhere, USA” “Works for me, Lee, whaddaya think, Marketing?”) from ‘Pulp Fiction’ and or the post shooting of the perp in ‘Dirty Harry,’ with the dialogue. It can sometimes feel like he’s written it for either the mentally slow, or children, but the ‘short cat-sat-on-the-mat’ style has, unfortunately, become his and Reacher’s trademark and I’m sure Marketing are against adding a few more words to the sentences, Reacher’s or anyone else’s, so we’re stuck with it.

The story, as I say above, is a rehash of the middle of nowhere town stuff Lee Child has done umpteen times before. This time in woods, with modern, well-spoken (aren’t they always?) techy villains. The interest is with the opening of the door, very, very slightly, on Reacher’s background. Though Reacher does still have his foot very firmly behind it.

Past Tense is, for all the above, actually pretty good. There’s still too much of the “maybe this, maybe that, maybe the bleedin’ other” stuff and you will be wanting to slap the young couple, but otherwise, there’s a good melancholy atmosphere, some interesting countryside described and a decent, I didn’t see it ending that way, ending,

You can buy Past Tense from The Book Depository
Word of warning: If you buy Past Tense, any of the Reacher books, or any incredibly possible series, from The Book Depository, or anywhere online, check precisely which size of book you are ordering. You’ll be wanting it to fit in with the others you’ve got. With the wildly popular titles, there can be many different sized versions. It goes without saying you don’t buy an American version, their paperback covers aren’t worthy of a place on anyone’s bookshelf.

Photo by Toni Lluch on Unsplash

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