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Jack Reacher faces his past

May 3, 2019

If you are in pain, instead of grabbing the ibuprofen, try a Jack Reacher thriller by Lee Child. If his newest book “Past Tense” doesn’t distract you, call 911.

Past Tense starts with two story lines and over time weaves them together to a satisfying if rather violent conclusion. The main story involves Jack Reacher who grew up in a transient military family. His father was a Marine and Reacher served in the elite Army military police. He stands 6′5″ and is musclebound. He is described as not very handsome but something about his quiet self-confidence and sense of fairness gives him a certain appeal.

Never one to settle down, Reacher started hitchhiking in Maine with the goal of heading to San Diego. He caught a ride and got out near Laconia, New Hampshire, where his late father was raised.

Around the same time, Shorty Fleck, who had been a potato farmer, and Patty Sandstrom, a sawmill worker, were driving from a small town in New Brunswick, Canada, to sell their treasure in New York City and make a new life in Florida. Their old Honda Civic became overheated and they were forced to stop at a small rural, isolated motel outside of Laconia. Mark, Peter, Steven and Robert, who ran the motel and also serviced numerous quad-bikes, offered to try to fix the Honda. Shorty and Patty reluctantly paid $50 for a night’s stay and settled in room 10. Alas, the next morning the Honda unexpectedly would not start so the men at the motel promised to contact a mechanic.

Unfortunately the motel phone was out and the men claimed they had sold three of their cars and the remaining clunker would not start. It turned out that room 10 had audio and video surveillance so the four men heard Shorty and Patty discuss their suspicions about the several unfortunate coincidences. The men decided to prolong their guests’ stay by plotting to have a friend arrive the next day with a tow truck.

Meanwhile, Reacher, exploring his family’s past, walked from the county records department to the census department and finally to the police station where he found police records about two boys, one of whom was Stan Reacher, who had badly beaten a bully back in 1943. The Reacher family had rented a home in nearby Ryantown. There was also a record of a Mark Reacher who had bought a motel to renovate and caused a disturbance over the extended paperwork. Reacher started out to explore Ryantown.

Back at the motel, the mechanic arrived at the last possible moment, examined the Honda, declared it needed a part, left to get the part and never returned. The couple soon learned that they were imprisoned in room 10, under surveillance with no hope of escape.

With two-thirds of the book left, your heart in your throat and reading nonstop, it is easy to forget any reality except Reacher’s. Cabell County Public Library has copies of this book in the main library and most branches.

Hazel Palmer lives in Huntington and is an avid reader. She worked in economic development, pubic and higher education.

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