Past Tense by Lee Child**

18 July 2023 | ,

Reading dates: 23 June – 17 July 2023

Deep in the New England woods, a young couple are stranded at a lonely motel, trapped in a game of life and death. Lucky for them, Reacher has just arrived in the next town over.

Past Tense is quite frankly ridiculous. There are two parallel stories, one os the one mentioned above in the publisher’s description and the other is the one alluded to in the title, which refers to Reacher’s past, particularly his father. Both are major in terms of gravity, yet, they are dealt with lightly. Everything is tentative, tame, even the location of Laconia in New Hampshire and Reacher’s possible love interest. There is a side-kick which, although needed, reads like a puppet. He basically drives Reacher back and forth, who would do that?

There are lots of potentials, interesting themes, twists and turns, but nothing, absolutely nothing, comes to fruition. I think Past Tense is in need of a ruthless content editor.

Past tense is number 23. I have one more novel to read in order to complete the Lee Child Jack Reacher series, as the others have been written with (by?) Andrew Child. If I miss Reacher, though, at least I have somewhere to go but I already feel I need a break, especially after this nonsense.

Learning from Reacher

On the lizard-brain

He heard nothing. Not many sounds were lizard-brain sounds any more. The pad or hiss of an ancient predator was unlikely. The nearest forest twigs to be ominously stepped upon and loudly broken were miles away beyond the edge of town. Not much else scared the primitive cortex. Not in the audio kingdom. Newer sounds were dealt with elsewhere, in the front part of the brain, which was plenty vigilant for the scrapes and clicks of modern threats, but which lacked the seniority to wake a person up from a deep and contented sleep. So what woke him? The only other truly ancient sound was a cry for help. A scream, or a plea. Not a modern yell, or a whoop or a cackle of laughter. Something deeply primitive. The tribe, under attack. At its very edge. A distant early warning.

On white gloves

The records were in four large ledgers with maroon marbled covers, stained and faded by time. Each book was an inch and a half thick, and the edges were marbled too, in curling, feathery patterns. Inside, the pages were numbered, and lined, and faded, and brittle, and covered in neat fountain-pen handwriting, gone watery and pale with age. He asked, ‘Should I be wearing white cotton gloves?’ ‘No,’ the woman said. ‘That’s a myth. Generally does more harm than good.’

On latin

Stan Reacher, nem con. Which was short for the Latin nemine contradicente, which meant no one spoke against, which meant no one else wanted the job.

On behaviour when there is the potential of a fight (same behaviour as when there is potential for performance art)

All around them people melted away, instantly, like oil and water. A different kind of ancient instinct. Reacher had seen it a hundred times. On sidewalks outside bars. On dance floors. There would be a crackle of aggression, and suddenly a vast hole would open up. Suddenly there would be a wide perimeter.


Previous reviews of the Jack Reacher series

#1 Killing Floor ***
Jack Reacher gets off a bus in a small town in Georgia. And is thrown into the county jail, for a murder he didn’t commit.

#2 Die Trying ***
Reacher is locked in a van with a woman claiming to be FBI. And ferried right across America into a brand new country.

#3 Tripwire **
Reacher is digging swimming pools in Key West when a detective comes round asking questions. Then the detective turns up dead.

#4 The Visitor ***
Two naked women found dead in a bath filled with paint. Both victims of a man just like Reacher.

#5 Echo Burning ***
In the heat of Texas, Reacher meets a young woman whose husband is in jail. When he is released, he will kill her.

#6 Without Fail ****
A Washington woman asks Reacher for help. Her job? Protecting the Vice President.

#7 Persuader ****
A kidnapping in Boston. A cop dies. Has Reacher lost his sense of right and wrong?

#8 The Enemy ***
Back in Reacher’s army days. a general is found dead on his watch.

#9 One Shot *** (2012)
A lone sniper shoots five people dead in a heartland city. But the accused guy says, ‘Get Reacher’.

#10 The Hard Way ***
A coffee on a busy New York street leads to a shoot-out three thousand miles away in the Norfolk countryside.

#11 Bad Luck and Trouble ***
One of Reacher’s buddies has shown up dead in the California desert, and Reacher must put his old army unit back together.

#12 Nothing to Lose **
Reacher crosses the line between a town called Hope and one named Despair.

#13 Gone Tomorrow ****
On the New York subway, Reacher counts down the twelve tell-tale signs of a suicide bomber.

#14 61 hours **** 
In freezing South Dakota, Reacher hitches a lift on a bus heading for trouble.

#15 Worth Dying For ***
Reacher runs into a clan that’s terrifying the Nebraska locals, but it’s the unsolved case of a missing child that he can’t let go.

#16 The Affair ****
Six months before the events in Killing Floor, Major Jack Reacher of the US Military Police goes undercover in Mississippi, to investigate a murder.

#17 A Wanted Man *****
A freshly-busted nose makes it difficult for Reacher to hitch a ride. When at last he’s picked up by two men and a woman, it soon becomes clear they have something to hide.

#18 Never Go Back *****
When Reacher returns to his old Virginia headquarters he is accused of a sixteen-year-old homicide and hears these words: ‘You’re back in the army, Major. And your ass is mine.’

#19 Personal ****
Someone has taken a shot at the French president. Only one man could have done it – and Reacher is the one man who can find him.

#20 Make Me ****
At a remote railroad stop on the prairie called Mother’s Rest, Jack Reacher finds a town full of silent, watchful people, and descends into the heart of darkness.

#21 The Night School ***
The twenty-first in the series takes Reacher back to his army days, but this time he’s not in uniform. In Hamburg, trusted sergeant Frances Neagley at his side, he must confront a terrifying new enemy.

#22 The Midnight Line***
Reacher tracks a female officer’s class ring back to its owner in the deserted wilds of Wyoming, on a raw quest for simple justice.

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Past tense