I have heard C.J. Box referred to as a writer's writer, as he is award winning, critically acclaimed, and admired by other authors. It's so easy to see why as his prose is sharp and evocative and his stories never slow.
Box is a resident of Wyoming and most of his books are set there but at times he wanders into Montana and North Dakota as he does in this third Cassie Dewell book.
This is the third book in the saga of the murderous Lizard King, but Box catches up the new reader to the series quite well.
Cassie is an investigator with the Bakken County Sheriff's Dept, in North Dakota. Or she is until her plan to trap the Lizard King goes horribly wrong and she is made a scapegoat who then has to resigns. She has moved from Montana to the oil fields of Bakken during the oil boom and has stayed in Bakken with her son, Ben and her mother Isabel during the oil bust. But now heartbroken and nearly broken, Cassie is on her own with her belief that the Lizard King still lives to torture and murder.
The Lizard King is an independent long distance truck driver who kidnaps women from truck stops, plays with them and then discards them; usually where their bodies are never found. But now like so many middle aged men, he just wants to retire and spend time with his family. Though in his case he has to make his own family and maybe he needs to be a bit of a disciplinarian.
Darn it, a man has a right to a quiet retirement. Cassie disagrees and so does her friend, Leslie Behaunek the prosecutor in North Carolina who had the Lizard King but lost him.
While Cassie is looking for a hint of the Lizard King, two young friends of her son have disappeared on a Huck Finn type adventure down the Missouri River. Cassie is hired by the grandmother of one of boys to find them. The first hint of the boys is in a tiny Montana town far from the Missouri River.
Cassie returns to Montana to investigate the boys' disappearance, realizing there may be a connection to the Lizard King when she discovers a small cluster of disappearances in Bakken the day of the tragic attempt to end the Lizard King's long reign of horror.
An old fashioned posse is formed with the help of a long retired, old outfitter Bull Mitchell, Sheriff Bryan Pederson of the Park County Sheriff’s Dept and three of his deputies. Hopefully Bull and the Sheriff will reappear in subsequent Cassie Dewell books as they are rough, tough, and ready to go. Did I happen to mention that Bull is also downright amusing and Pederson has intriguing possibilities?
With the formation of the posse and the trip in the mountains of Montana, Cassie finds her mojo again and becomes the tough decisive law officer she has always been.
As always the beauty of the landscape figures strongly in Box's novels.
He also has his usual say about the over regulation and interference by the government. Rarely is the government above the local level featured in any positive manner in Box's books. But then again, he is a Western writer.
Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC in return for an honest and fair review.