Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Badlands by C.J. Box

First Sentence:  Twelve-year-old Kyle Westergaard was halfway through his route delivering the Grimstad Tribune when he heard the high whine of car engines on the highway in the dark.
Det. Cassie Dewell, working with the FBI, thinks they may finally have caught the Lizard King, an independent long-haul trucker, a serial killer of prostitutes, and the man partially responsible for the murder of her boss.  But do the they enough to hold him.  Leaving her former post behind, Cassie has transferred to be the new deputy sheriff in Grimstad, ND, a town filled with oil money and drugs.  The sheriff suspects the town is about to be flooded with a shipment of meth that came into town is went missing.  A very vicious motorcycle gang is in town looking for them.  Can Cassie find them first?  And what is the role of a young boy on a bicycle?

C.J. Box writes a series with the protagonist of Joe Pickett, a Wyoming game warden.  This book is not part of that series.  "Badlands" is a continuation of a story which started with "Back of Beyond" and continued in "The Highway."  These are decidedly darker and more violent, yet with the same excellence of writing.  
The Lizard King is a through thread, and an excellent, unsettling one.  One need not have read previous books in order to catch the thread, although one may be enticed so do to.  That’s not a bad thing.  One thing that was interesting was to learn the difference between independent truckers and company drivers.  At the same time, the focus of this story is criminals cold enough to freeze your blood.  
Box is very good at creating a sense of place by painting mental pictures…”December in North Carolina was brown and gray but not white.  Light rain fell from a close granite sky.  The hardwood trees were tall and skeletal and a thick brown carpet of leaves covered the forest floor.”
Box presents an interesting and balanced picture of the positive impact from the economic impact of oil companies on previously small, struggling communities, while also focusing on the negative secondary results of money, drugs, guns and crime.  In this instance, those negatives are very dark, and very violent. 
Cassie is an excellent protagonist; smart, strong, intelligent yet not without her own issues.  You become involved with her and her life, and sense her frustration at a case gone awry.  What is particularly nice, is that in Sheriff Jon Kirkbride she has a supportive boss.  Kyle proves that no child should be underestimated or disregarded.
Badlands” is exciting and gripping with an explosive plot twist.  One becomes completely involved in a story which provides a satisfying conclusion; yet with a continuing thread to the next book.

BADLANDS (Pol. Proc – Det. Cassie Dewell – North Dakota – Contemp) – Ex
Box, C.J. – 3rd in series
Minotaur Books – July 2015

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