“Paradise Valley” by C. J. Box is an intense story following Cassie Dewell as she continues her search for the deviant long-haul trucker she first encountered in “The Highway.” It is not necessary to have read the two previous books in this series to grasp this one.
This story begins about four years after “The Highway,” and Cassie is working in another state for another agency. She is planning her wedding and setting up the final trap for The Lizard King. The book starts with a bang, literally, as the scheme does not go as planned. Heat, fire, smoke, and ash fill the Dakota sky. Lives are lost; jobs are lost, and all hope seems to be lost.
On the other side of town, two teen-aged boys have planned a “Tom Sawyer” type trip down the river on a raft. They load up their provisions, push their rafts into the water, and set out down The Missouri River on their way to New Orleans. They disappear without a trace. They were friends of Cassie’s son Ben, and since she is now unemployed, she agrees to help the families find the boys since law enforcement’s effort has been minimal and unproductive.
The book is all about those chases, the continued pursuit of “The Lizard King,” and the search for two boys on their adventure. In a dark race against time, these two quests traverse several states and intersect in a frightening way. The action is dialogue driven, and the pace is solid and swift. The characters are diverse, complex, and true to life as they struggle to cope with seemingly untenable situations. All are hurting, and all are seeking an end to the insanity.
“Paradise Valley” is gripping and addictive, and it does not end well for everyone involved. I received a copy of “Paradise Valley” from St. Martin’s Press, C. J. Box, and NetGalley in exchanged for my impartial review. It is not an easy book to read, but it is a very good one.
C. J. Box was at The Book Carnival, Orange, CA on July 29, 2017 and discussed “Paradise Valley” as well as what we can expect from him next.