Past Tense by Lee Child
OK,OK, Rebel Voice did have a falling out with Lee Child over one or two of his Reacher novels. However, such is the popularity of this series, it would be remiss of this site not to review a few more instalments. That’s our excuse, anyhow, and we’re sticking to it. This review contains spoilers.
This time Reacher has decided to take a look at the place where his father grew up. Laconia is a small town in New Hampshire where very little of note happens. At least that was the case until big Jack got there. It’s not long before our reluctant hero gets himself embroiled in a conflict with some hard cases with connections to the Mob in Boston.
Reacher is in the process of trying to find exactly where his old man lived, and runs into some problems. It appears that his father’s name of Stan is not his name at all. Stan was his cousin. Perhaps Reacher‘s father was really from the Appalachians?Reacher is intrigued and makes his way to the location of the hamlet of Ryantown, former site of a mill long since closed. All that remains of the home associated with Jack’s father are the foundations and grown-over streets. It transpires that Jack’s father was probably orphaned, perhaps from military parents, and was moved from place to place during his turbulent childhood. One of the places he stayed was with his father’s brother in Ryantown. It was there that he got into some serious trouble that resulted in the death of a local thug. He joined the military then, at a young age, using his cousin’s name.
It’s easy to see that the Reacher apple did not fall far from the Reacher tree, as Jack finds himself in the same predicament when a woman is being abused by the son of a wealthy businessman. It’s Jack’s reaction to this that brings the Boston Mob down on his big head. Local law enforcement are not impressed and wish to avoid a bloodbath in Laconia. Jack gets his marching orders. Rebel Voice wonders if this can be done in reality; surely there are legal papers that need to be processed before someone can be barred from an entire town? Is it really such a good idea to do it anyhow, after all, look at what happened when they tried to do the same to John Rambo. Do law enforcement learn nothing from watching the movies?
Running concurrent to this thread is that of Patty Sundstrom and her boyfriend, Shorty Fleck, a couple of young Canadians trying to get to New York to sell some mysterious items that will get them set up in Florida. Unfortunately, the car they drive is just about screwed and they desperately make their stuttering way to a remote motel in search of help. Big mistake. Big, big mistake. Big f**king mistake. Think Norman Bates crossed with Hard Target starring Jean-Claude van Damme.
Patty and Shorty find themselves prisoners of a gang of young and very personable entrepreneurs who use the remote location as a base for bow hunters. These brave individuals are the type who like to stalk and kill people. It’s not long before the Canadians learn what the men have in store for them. But did the vile capitalist brutes underestimate their socialist prey?
Past Tense is more of the same from Child. Reacher is his old uncompromising self, although his fights are somewhat toned down from previous offerings, thankfully. There is no love interest in this one, but there is enough to keep the reader, regular fan or not, engaged. Reacher is undoubtedly a strong fictional personality. He plays well for both men and women. Men want to be him and women want to be with him. He’s a compassionate savage.
As Jack begins to find out more about his father’s pitiful childhood, the reader could be forgiven for expecting some type of strong emotional reaction from him. The most we do receive is another visit by Reacher to Ryantown to perhaps pay his respects to his father and what he lived through. The Great Depression must have been a horrific time for all afflicted. Jack Reacher‘s not a man given to great sentiment, so any small expression of emotion must be viewed in that context.
The interesting thing about Past Tense, is that the back story for Stan Reacher (whose real name is William) is evocative of what migrants to the US are currently going through. It would be nice to think that Lee Child wrote this book in an effort to temper the right-wing reaction to what is being incorrectly labelled a ‘migrant crisis’. If at least some readers see a close correlation between the migrants of the Depression and those of today, then Child will have done a great service to the USA. Of course, it may be that Rebel Voice is over-thinking the intentions of Child, but we like to give the befit of the doubt and so will commend him for the back story in this one.
As the time nears when both Patty and Shorty are to be released for the hunt, Reacher discovers that the official owner of the motel is also named Reacher. The place is coming down with them. Jack pays a visit to the property but is courteously directed away. He’s not fooled, though, not our Jack. And so it is that the two threads entwine as Jack finds himself caught up in the hunt. Jack and two Canadians against 6 professional bow-hunters and their 4 gun-toting associates? Who do you think will be left standing after that one? It better be Reacher, or there will be no more books in the series, unless he starts to haunt the roads and villages of the United States. Jack Reacher as a ghost, a really big poltergeist; now that’s a scary story-line.
Sult scale rating: 7.5 out of 10. Past Tense has a slightly different feel to it than most of the other Reacher novels. It’s nostalgic of necessity and that’s not a bad thing. We get a look at Jack’s family background and find an unexpected insight into why Jack Reacher is the man he is. The story is filled with many consistent characters. Although not immediately obvious, the reader gets to see a side of Jack not usually shown. He’s a man without any real roots. He has no attachments. He no longer has any family. He is alone. It shows in this book and may elicit a certain degree of sympathy for him. Rebel Voice looks at Jack Reacher and thinks of David Banner, aka The Incredible Hulk. Remember the haunting music at the end of each episode as David left whatever town he was in, perhaps not even taking time to say goodbye to the friends he made and people he helped? That’s Jack Reacher. Rebel Voice wonders how much influence that seminal TV show had upon the inner workings of Lee Child‘s mind.