Back of Beyond by C. J. Box

Back of Beyond
by
C. J. Box

Rating:

Cody Hoyt is a rogue investigator for Montana’s Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Department, returning to his home town after the job and more went wrong in Colorado. He’s thirty-eight, divorced, and a recovering alcoholic. When his AA sponsor dies in a suspicious cabin fire, Cody is sure it’s murder. A clue points to a wilderness adventure outfitter and an upcoming trip to Yellowstone National Park. Is this the same trip his teenage son, Justin is about to take?

Cody is determined to stay on the wagon and avenge his sponsor’s death and he will do anything to protect his son. But how can he find Justin and the group which is traveling by horseback in the park’s back of beyond? It’s not long before he has broken too many rules to count and is forced to turn in his badge and weapon. As he goes off on his own, Cody’s only help comes from his ally in the department, Larry Olson.

In an exciting story that alternates between Cody’s investigation and the group’s trip, readers will try to assemble the clues and facts. Meantime, the power struggles and dynamics between the group and its guides is a fascinating study of human behavior. Several characters act suspiciously, some are downright unlikable, and some are fools or just plain weak. Justin is indeed on the trip, as well as two sisters from another family. One has sharp insight and the other has eyes for Justin, giving the story a nice balance of the teenage point of view.

As members dissent and others disappear, readers know it is only a matter of time before the killer is identified. But whether Cody can find the group in time is another matter. Good luck even trying to figure it out. You will need to read to the wild finish to learn all the connections!

Back of Beyond is a highly entertaining mystery adventure. This is the first C. J. Box book I have read and I’m sure I will read more. Of course, there is the required suspension of disbelief during certain developments, but I think that is part of the package in this genre.

What I liked best about the story is the way Box describes Yellowstone because it made me want to book a trip. An avid outdoorsman, Box takes pride in writing about things he knows. I’d say it shows.

C.J. Box is the author of twenty-seven novels, including the popular Joe Pickett series. Back of Beyond is a standalone novel and he has several others, including Blue Heaven (2009), which won the Edgar Alan Poe Award for Best Novel.

You can learn more about C. J. Box from this short interview from the 2016 ThirllerFest.

Have you read anything by C. J. Box? Are you a Joe Pickett fan? Leave a comment and let me know!

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Book Review: The Dry by Jane Harper

The Dry
by
Jane Harper

Federal Agent Aaron Falk left his home town of Kiewarra in Victoria, Australia, twenty years ago, right after Ellie Deacon died in the river. Now another of Falk’s childhood friends, Luke Hadler and his family, are dead. Despite the friendship, Falk would rather stay in Melbourne, but when he receives a letter from Luke’s father, he knows he must go back. Gerry Hadler’s words are unsettling: “Luke lied. You lied. Be at the funeral.”

Falk dreads returning to a town that chased him and his father away years ago, all because of an alibi that no one believed. Since then, lies and secrets have crippled the small farming town and a two-year drought has made everyone desperate. Falk wants to get in for the funeral and get out as soon as he can, but at the service, a chilling picture rotates through the slide show. Luke, Falk, Ellie and Gretchen Schoner, a tight teenage foursome and now only two are left. Is there a connection between Ellie’s death and the Hadler murders?

When Luke’s parents ask him to look into the murders, Falk reluctantly agrees. Headed by Kiewarra’s new Sergeant Raco, Falk and Raco follow leads and suspicions as hostility against Falk grows. Nothing is at it seems, however, and Falk will have to dig to the raw core to understand, if he survives the process.

The Dry is a terrific atmospheric thriller in which Kiewarra’s setting on the edge of the bushland and the drought’s devastating effects weigh heavy on the characters. False leads, unclear motives and complex relationships make this story both an entertaining read and a more serious study of human behavior. Why do people keep secrets and what could have been different if the truth were told? Harper may not have the answer, but she shows how lies and secrets can crush.

I recommend The Dry to readers who enjoy mysteries and to anyone who is interested in human behavior. I’m looking forward to reading Harper’s next book, Force of Nature.


I read The Dry as part of my library’s Summer Reading
Challenge to “read a book set in a place you’d like to visit.”


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What’s up next? Second Street Station by Lawrence H. Levy

Second Street Station

Today I started reading Second Street Station – A Mary Handley Mystery, by Lawrence H. Levy. Second Street Station is the first of a new series of mysteries by Levy, in which Mary Handley, whose character is based on a real person, becomes the city’s first policewoman. As Mary works to solve a murder, she meets up with several historical figures, including J.P. Morgan, Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla.

Here’s a detailed book description from Amazon:

A historical mystery featuring the witty and wily Mary Handley, the first woman detective in Brooklyn, as she tries to prove herself in a man’s world while solving a high profile murder.
 
Mary Handley is a not your typical late-nineteenth century lady. She’s fiery, clever, daring—and she’s not about to conform to the gender norms of the day. Not long after being fired from her job at the hat factory for insubordinate behavior, Mary finds herself at the murder scene of Charles Goodrich, the brother of a prominent alderman and former bookkeeper of Thomas Edison. When Mary proves her acumen as a sleuth, she is hired by the Brooklyn police department—as the city’s first female policewoman—to solve the crime. The top brass of the department expect her to fail, but Mary has other plans. As she delves into the mystery, she finds herself questioning the likes of J. P. Morgan, Thomas Edison, and Nikola Tesla. Mary soon discovers the key to solving the case goes well beyond finding a murderer and depends on her ability to unearth the machinations of the city’s most prominent and respected public figures, men who will go to great lengths to protect their secrets.

Much like Mr. Churchill’s Secretary and Maisie Dobbs, Second Street Station presents a portrait of a world plunging into modernity through the eyes of a clever female sleuth. Mary Handley is an unforgettable protagonist whose wit, humor, and charm will delight readers from the very first page.

Be sure to visit Lawrence H. Levy’s website at lawrencehlevy.com.

Photo Credit:  Fran Levy
Photo Credit: Fran Levy

LAWRENCE H. LEVY is a highly regarded film and TV writer who is a Writers Guild Award winner and two-time Emmy nominee. He has written for various hit TV shows such as Family Ties, Saved by the Bell, Roseanne, and SeinfeldSecond Street Station is his debut novel and Brooklyn on Fire is his second book.  Brooklyn on Fire will be available January 19, 2016.

Brooklyn on Fire

You can also check out what readers are saying about Second Street Station on Goodreads.

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