In “Past Tense” (Delacorte Press, $28.99), Lee Child’s latest thriller, Jack Reacher is exploring the United States and comes to a town in rural New Hampshire with a name that’s familiar to him. It’s where his father was born.

Reacher decides to investigate his dad’s life. He visits the city clerk’s office and local library. He talks with people who have lived in the tiny town their entire lives. He’s surprised to find that no one with the last name of Reacher ever lived there.

While Reacher searches for answers, two young people from Canada run into some bad luck when their car breaks down. They’re happy when a local offers to help with their car and puts them up in a newly renovated motel. But they soon realize their knight in shining armor is lying and has taken them prisoner.

The novel starts more slowly than typical Lee Child narratives. But the two stories eventually collide in a surprising way, and the last third of the novel is tense and exciting, invoking elements of “Psycho” mixed with Stephen King.