“Past Tense: a Jack Reacher Novel” (Delacorte Press), by Lee Child

While Jack Reacher is exploring the United States, he stumbles on a rural area in New Hampshire and spots a sign with a name that’s familiar to him — the town where his father was born.

Reacher decides to take a detour from his plan to investigate his dad’s life. His plan goes awry when he visits the city clerk’s office and the local library. He also talks to folks who have lived in the tiny town their entire lives. According to the evidence, no one with the last name of Reacher ever lived there.

While Reacher searches for answers in “Past Tense,” two young people from Canada run into a bit of bad luck when their car breaks down. Since the area is isolated and they are lacking in funds, they are in a bind. Patty and her boyfriend, Shorty, are happy when a local offers to help them with their car and puts them in a newly renovated motel. It soon becomes terrifying when they realize their knight in shining armor is lying and has taken them prisoner.

The two stories eventually collide in a surprising way, and the last third of the novel is tense and exciting. Patty and Shorty’s story invokes elements of “Psycho” mixed with some Stephen King. The novel starts more slowly than typical Lee Child narratives, but once “Past Tense” gets past the opening, Child kicks the story into high gear.

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