Past Tense by Lee Child: A review

Lee Child is now up to number 23 in his Jack Reacher saga. I've previously read four of the books, the first three plus number 14. I'm never going to read the other eighteen in order to get to Past Tense, so I've utterly given up on my rule of reading series books in order. Life is too short.

But I'd heard some good things about this latest one and I needed a non-demanding read as a palate cleanser so I decided to go with it.

As in all the books (I guess), we find Jack Reacher on the road and on the move. This time he's starting out in Maine and his destination is San Diego, but on a whim, he decides to go through Laconia, New Hampshire. The town was where his father was born and grew up and he's never seen it. He researches the town records, with help from a city employee, to find where the Reachers might have lived and heads out to find the site and walk the ground where his forebears lived.

Meantime, in another part of the county, a young Canadian couple is also on the move, headed to New York. But their vehicle is about to quit on them and they look for a place to spend the night. They find an out-of-the-way - WAY out-of-the-way - motel. It might as well have a sign out front saying "Bates Motel." They check in, but will they ever check out?

These two story lines proceed on parallel tracks until, finally, they converge near the end. The "Jack track" features several violent encounters between Jack and various bad guys. They always come at him in groups, usually four or five in a pack, and they are formidable. Jack himself is 6'5" and is immensely skilled and powerful. As a former military policeman for the Army, he is very experienced in dealing with unruly characters. Child always describes these encounters in loving detail, often going on for pages. He obviously knows his audience and what his keen admirers expect from him. After reading through the first couple of such experiences in this book, I admit I skimmed rather lightly over the others.

I remember reading somewhere recently that somewhere in the world someone buys one of Lee Child's Jack Reacher books every 13 seconds. That is mind-boggling and yet I don't seriously doubt it. These books are incredibly popular and I can understand why. They are easy to read and they are full of action for those who require that in a book. The plots move quickly and the reader can count on the good guys coming out on top, no matter how tough those bad guys might be. 

Which brings up another question in my mind. I wonder what the body count is for all the characters dispatched by Jack Reacher over the years. Has anybody ever taken the time to total up? It would be interesting to know.

Lee Child has perfected his formula and I bet he could write one of these thrillers with one hand tied behind his back. They may not be much of a challenge any more, for him or the readers, but for what they are, they are fun reads. Past Tense was no exception.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


  1. Great compliments coming from you, an assiduous reader of mystery/thrillers. Sometimes these palate cleansers are exactly what one needs. It's been a while since I have indulged in one.

    1. Once every few years is about all I can do with Jack Reacher. These thrillers are a bit more bloody and testosterone-filled than to my taste, but every now and then they can be just what the reader ordered.

    2. The movie adaptations (two so far) have been outstanding.

  2. You could google "body count in Jack Reacher series." That's what my husband would do. In fact, he asks his questions verbally!

    1. Now, there's a thought! Maybe I will ask my friend Google.


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