Past TenseBook - 2018
Jack Reacher hits the pavement and sticks out his thumb. He plans to follow the sun on an epic trip across America, from Maine to California. He doesn't get far. On a country road deep in the New England woods, he sees a sign to a place he has never been: the town where his father was born. He thinks, What's one extra day? He takes the detour.
At the same moment, in the same isolated area, a car breaks down. Two young Canadians had been on their way to New York City to sell a treasure. Now they're stranded at a lonely motel in the middle of nowhere. The owners seem almost too friendly. It's a strange place, but it's all there is.
The next morning, in the city clerk's office, Reacher asks about the old family home. He's told no one named Reacher ever lived in town. He's always known his father left and never returned, but now Reacher wonders, Was he ever there in the first place?
As Reacher explores his father's life, and as the Canadians face lethal dangers, strands of different stories begin to merge. Then Reacher makes a shocking discovery: The present can be tough, but the past can be tense . . . and deadly.
Praise for Past Tense
"Child is one writer who should never be taken for granted." -- The New York Times Book Review
"[Lee Child] shows no signs of slowing down. . . . Reacher is a man for whom the phrase moral compass was invented: His code determines his direction. . . . You need Jack Reacher." -- The Atlantic
"Superb . . . Child neatly interweaves multiple narratives, ratchets up the suspense (the reveal of the motel plot is delicious), and delivers a powerful, satisfying denouement. Fans will enjoy learning more of this enduring character's roots, and Child's spare prose continues to set a very high bar." -- Publishers Weekly (boxed and starred review)
"Another first-class entry in a series that continues to set the gold standard for aspiring thriller authors." -- Booklist (starred review)
"With his usual flair for succinctness and eye for detail, Child creates another rollicking Reacher road trip that will please fans and newcomers alike." -- Library Journal (starred review)
From the critics
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Less than a dozen quotes in goodreads this morning. More here:
It would be an epic road trip, and one he hadn’t made in years. He was looking forward to it . He didn’t get far.
Laconia, New Hampshire. A name Reacher knew. He had seen it on all kinds of historic family paperwork, and he had heard it mentioned from time to time. It was his late father’s place of birth, and where he was raised until he escaped at age seventeen to join the Marines. Such was the vague family legend. Escaped from what had not been specified. But he never went back. Not once .
“We were a Marine family. We were always somewhere else.”
Surprise was always a good thing. A wise man never counted all the way to three.
He gave his name as Mark Reacher. Resident outside the jurisdiction.” “Age?” “Then twenty - six .” “He could be my distant nephew, many times removed. What was he upset about?”
Reacher hit him in the face, with a straight right, maximum force, crashing and twisting. Like a freight train. The kid’s lights went out immediately. He went slack and gravity took over. Reacher kept his left hand rock solid. All the kid’s weight fell on his own locked elbow. Reacher waited. One of two things would happen. Either the strength and elasticity in the kid’s ligaments would roll him forward, or they wouldn’t. They didn’t. The kid’s elbow broke and his arm turned inside out. Reacher let him fall. He landed on the bricks outside the bag shop, one arm right and the other arm wrong, like a swastika.
Reacher had been a cop for thirteen years, and then not a cop for longer, so he saw things from both points of view.
Dead as a doornail. Dead as the deadest thing that ever died.
“ How did you hurt your hand ? ” “I punched the garden wall.” “That’s an odd way to put it.” “Can’t really blame the wall.”
1943 was a serious year. The war was nearly two years old. Everything was rationed or in short supply. Everyone was dour and worried and working long hours. Hard to imagine any kind of giddy excitement going on good enough to attract a sixteen - year - old nine miles to the center of a stiff little New Hampshire town on a fall evening during tough times .
Was old enough to get a discount at the movies, but a long way from needing a cane.
“Tin has the potential to be dangerous. More than a hundred milligrams of tin per cubic meter of air is immediately injurious to life and health. What’s worse is when tin bonds with certain hydrocarbons to make organotin. Some of those compounds are more lethal than cyanide.
He said, “Let him go.” Just three words, but in a tone also learned long ago, with whole extra paragraphs hidden in the dying vowel sound at the end of the phrase, about the inevitable and catastrophic result of attempted resistance.
“Who are you?” “Just a guy standing on the public road asking you a question.” “This is not the public road.” “That’s the problem with denial. Reality doesn’t care what you think. It just keeps rolling along. This is the road. Always was. Still is. ”
You said some dumb thing eight years ago. Should I twist your arm today? ”
“Parenting tip,” he said. “Don’t leave him lying in the road. He could get run over. ” “I won’t forget this.” “That’s the difference between us,” Reacher said. “I already have.”
“I hit him once. There is no smaller number. It was the irreducible minimum. It was almost kindhearted. I assume he has a dental plan. ”
Reacher had been a cop. He knew what it was like. Running here, running there, phones ringing, eat when you can, sleep when you can.
They looked like a faded billboard for an old - time black and white movie.
The street was empty. There were no guns. There was no action at all. Not yet. Just a staring competition. And posing.
“I’m trying to figure out where that would fall, on a scale of likelihood. Where ten means it’s extremely likely to happen, and one means it isn’t going to happen in a million years. I have to tell you, right now the numbers popping up in my mind are all fairly small. ”
Reacher lined him up and threw his punch. Legend had it the fastest hands in boxing could move at thirty miles an hour, much faster than Reacher, who was happy with twenty, but even at that slower speed his fist crossed the yard of air in front of him in a tenth of a second.
It’s a decoy. They want you to follow it. It’s going to drive around all day at exactly twenty - nine miles an hour. It’s going to signal every turn, and you can bet your ass its tail lights are in working order. Meanwhile the real guy is in an electrician’s van. Or a plumber. Or flowers. Or whatever. We have to assume a certain amount of common sense. The real guy is going to slip into town sometime today and no one is going to notice.
“Your risk, I guess.” “No, the electrician’s risk. He’s going to be the paperwork, not me. What choice do I have? I can’t send him home to Boston with a pat on the back and a candy bar.
“Don’t let ego get in the way of a good decision.” “You just trashed every general in our nation’s history.” “You weren’t a general. Don’t make the same mistake. ”
As if visitors to an old people’s home made up a unique demographic. Not the recently bereaved. The soon to be. The pre - bereaved.
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. ”
About how a baby hummingbird could be born in North America, and then fly alone two thousand miles and land on a spot the size of a pocket handkerchief. Mr . . . . Or MS. Smith figured it must have been born with a fixed instinct, directly inherited from the parent, mysteriously transmitted at a cellular level by a mechanism as yet unknown.
They’re Canadian, so they had healthcare growing up. You could call her strapping. That might be the right word for the woman. For him, not so much. His name is Shorty for a reason.
When the government started commandeering every kind of basic item for the war effort, including steel and rubber and aluminum, of course, and gasoline, but also all kinds of other things. Such as rat poison. The military needed it all. For unspecified reasons. None was available on the civilian market. Like so many things. The result was the rats and mice in Ryan town grew plump and healthy. So the hawks came hustling over from wherever they had weathered the chemical storm, and they got back to work.
All three together, all at once. So much press and crowding there wouldn’t really be a nearest guy. Or a farthest guy, or a guy in the middle. They would all be one single unit, like a new species of animal, huge, weighing six hundred pounds, with six hands and six feet.
Reacher stepped down and kicked him in the head. Just once. The irreducible number. But hard. To discourage further participation.
Reacher insisted he feel free to take off without him. Immediately, no warning, at any time at all, for any reason or none, whatever his gut or his instincts told him. “Don’t second - guess it,” Reacher said. “Don’t overthink it. Don’t wait even half a second. ”
Overhead was a hawk, on the thermals. Two more, in the far distance, widely separated. Too far away to tell what kind. Stan would have said it was typical raptor behavior. Each one claimed an exclusive slice of the action. My street corner, your street corner. No trespassing. Like tough guys everywhere.
Reacher thought, OK, then. He knew squat about wrestling. He had never tried it. Never felt the need. Too sweaty. Too many rules. Too much like a last resort. He believed a fight should be won or lost long before it came to rolling around on the floor.
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