Past Tense by Lee Child – Book Review

Past Tense by Lee Child – Book Cover

The “Past Tense” is the 23rd Reacher novel. When I stumbled upon Lee Child about 20 years ago, it was almost like a revelation. Well, maybe not that, but damn, it was good. After that, no matter how hard I tried with any other similar bestselling author, you can imagine the result. None of them came close. Not even in the ballpark. It was all mediocre crap from Linwood Barclay to Michael Robotham.

Twenty-three parts of roughly similar quality in a book series is really something. Hungarian national pride, the Leslie L. Lawrence series, became a parody of itself around the sixth installment. The first worrying signs for Lee Child started to emerge around the 20th installment. Of course, the series was always heavily coated with a kind of over-the-top feeling, which maybe isn’t bad until there’s a serious story behind it. This is missing now, for the first time, in the book titled “Past Tense.” Reacher’s attempt to turn a sleepy family tree research into a investigation turns out to be so thin that the author is forced to insert a parallel subplot with new perspective characters. The young female member of the couple is just as masterful an analyst as the major himself. However, while you can believe Reacher in this, the girl is just not convincing.

The lack of a solid crime foundation makes the familiar motifs mostly seem tiresomely contrived. The meticulous description of things that are usually mundane in investigative work can sometimes be mind-numbing. For example, the author elaborates on the structure and use of a computer mouse. Thank you very much, major, we’ve been using it daily for almost forty years! You also incredulously observe Reacher having to find out such trivial matters as where random supporting characters are going to sneak off for a little hanky-panky.

Jack Reacher, the perpetually sniffing unbeatable dispenser of justice, becomes an ordinary mortal as he handles official matters: and shows a great deal of insensitivity, such as gleefully using up poor Reverend Burke’s entire phone credit; or looking completely idiotic while demonstrating his special skill, – yes, just like Mr. Vekker – constant mental timekeeping.

To make matters worse, he routinely beats up a few disagreeable douches just like Tarzan (see Tarzan and the Leopard Men). Because, much to your regret, it slowly becomes apparent that Reacher, in fact, is a violent character who constantly abuses his physical superiority, sticking his nose into other people’s business whether they like it or not.

If you devoured the pages of the previous books, well, you won’t with “Past Tense”. This is the weakest part of the Jack Reacher series so far, and a warning sign for the sad future ahead. 🙁


Past Tense (Jack Reacher #23) by Lee Child
382 pages, Hardcover
Published in 2018 by Delacorte Press

Other work(s) of the author:
Die Trying by Lee Child

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