Sunday, September 13, 2015

Ray's Reviews: Badlands by C.J. Box

 “Badlands”, by C. J. Box (Minotaur, $26.99) is a compelling, violent
crime novel that continues the saga of Cassie Dewell, a strong-willed
woman who gets into a lot of trouble.
        Working as a Sherriff’s investigator in Lewis and Clark County, in
Helena, Montana, she has many frustrations; she’s applied for a new job
as the Deputy Investigator in the boom town of Grimstad, North Dakota.
        She’s trying to track down a multi-state serial killer known as “The
Lizard King”; she flies down to North Carolina, where a trucker is being
held for further questioning.
        Dewell has little luck breaking the suspect; later, she gets confirmation
on her application and goes to North Dakota to take her new job.
        At first, it seems a bit overwhelming – Grimstad is part of “the new Wild
West”, a boom town where oil fracking has significantly changed the
economy and the safety of the area.
        She’s the only woman on the force, there’s resentment from others within
the department who were passed up for the job. She doesn’t know who she
can trust.
        Kyle Westergaard, a twelve year old newspaper boy on a bicycle, witnesses
a deadly car roll-over and salvages a white bundle that was ejected from
the vehicle.
        He’s developmentally disabled as a result of fetal alcohol syndrome; and
doesn’t communicate very well.
        Kyle’s mother is a former pole-dancer now working at a fast-food
restaurant.     They’re living with her low-life boyfriend, who has his own
ideas about what to do with the cash and drugs that were in the bundle.
        Meanwhile, two nasty Salvadorian gang members, who were responsible for
the roll-over, are out to recover the loot.
        Soon, people are disappearing; body parts are turning up all over town.
While Dewell and her crew know who’s responsible for these crimes, the
situation becomes considerably more challenging.
        Cassie Dewell, who also appeared in “The Highway”, is well- developed
character – she’s a widowed mother with a young son who has to make many
tough decisions.
        The author deftly changes points of view, raising the tension level
slowly but surely.
        While this isn’t one of Box’s excellent Joe Pickett novels, it’s still a
solid procedural mystery, offering tense suspense and unexpected plot
twists in a memorable setting.

        Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime
novels and Michigan books regularly since 1987.

Find this book and other great titles
at the Curious Book Shop, an independent 
book shop in East Lansing, founded in 1969.

Curious Book Shop
307 East Grand River Avenue
East Lansing, Michigan

This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on September 13, 2015.

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