The year spent counting down from Jack Reacher's last adventure to Past Tense has highlighted the importance of sticking to one particular strategy from the big man's playbook: just live in the day.
Because Past Tense hasn't been worth all those months of waiting and wondering about how Child would follow up the excellent The Midnight Line.
The set-up suggests a classic, as Reacher finds himself close to his late father's boyhood home and decides to take a look. Child wrote about the early years of Reacher's mother in 2004's The Enemy, but the family history here isn't a patch on the plot and pacing of that whodunit.
Hung up on location (ordnance survey manuals aren't renowned for their tension) and with two characters who redefine the term 'innocents abroad', Past Tense is too dull and silly for over 200 pages - like going around in a circle asking yourself, "Are we there yet?" Child's decision to delve into "déjà vu all over again" through Reacher's genealogy research would've worked better as a short story because, a nice little coda aside, it doesn't add much here.
The action in the final quarter as Reacher dispenses natural justice sees Child in full flow, but comes too late to rescue this book from being a disappointment. Both he and the reader need to make up for lost time.