Reviewed by Ian Lipke
The C.J. Box series of books consists of rambling episodes disguised as books in series. The only things they have in common are characters who appear time and time again. The best known of these is Cassie Dewell, a private investigator.
The first book is Back of Beyond featuring Cody Hoyt. Cassie will become his partner in the next book The Highway. Cody Hoyt, although a brilliant cop, is an alcoholic struggling with two months of sobriety when his friend Hank Winters is found burned to death in a remote mountain cabin. At first it looks like the suicide of a man who’s fallen off the wagon, but Cody knows Hank better than that. As Cody digs deeper into the case, all roads lead to foul play. After years of bad behaviour in his department, Cody is in no position to be investigating a homicide, but he will stop at nothing to find Hank’s killer.
The Highway – When two sisters set out across a remote stretch of Montana road to visit their friend, little do they know it will be the last time anyone will ever hear from them. The girls―and their car―simply vanish. Former police investigator Cody Hoyt has just lost his job and has fallen off the wagon after a long stretch of sobriety. Convinced by his son and his former rookie partner, Cassie Dewell, he begins the drive south to the girls’ last known location.
Badlands – The town of Grimstad used to be a place people came from but were never headed to. Now it’s the oil capital of North Dakota. With oil comes money, with money comes drugs, and with drugs come the dirtiest criminals Cassie Dewell has ever encountered.
Paradise Valley – For three years, Investigator Cassie Dewell has been on the hunt for a serial killer known as the Lizard King, whose hunting grounds are the highways and truck stops where runaways and prostitutes are most likely to vanish. Now, working for the Bakken County, North Dakota sheriff’s department, Cassie has set what she believes is the perfect trap for the Lizard King–and she has lured him and his truck to a depot. But the plan goes horribly wrong…and Cassie loses her job, her reputation, and her hope for justice.
The Bitterroots – Former sheriff’s investigator Cassie Dewell is trying to start her life over in private practice. She’s her own boss and answers to no one, and that’s just the way she likes it after the past few tumultuous years. All that certainty changes when an old friend calls in a favour: she wants Cassie to help exonerate a man accused of assaulting a young woman from an influential family.
Treasure State – Private Investigator Cassie Dewell’s business is thriving, and her latest case puts her on the hunt for a slippery con man who’s disappeared somewhere in the “treasure state”. A wealthy Florida widow has accused him of absconding with her fortune and wants Cassie to find him and get it back. The trail takes Cassie to Anaconda, Montana, a quirky former copper mining town that’s the perfect place to reinvent oneself. As the case develops, Cassie begins to wonder if her client is telling her everything.
Hence Treasure State is simply the latest in a series of dimly connected stories held together by the presence of the hero Cassie Dewell. There is little to commend it, there is next to nothing to persuade a reader to involve himself in the series. This is, I’m afraid, a cheap piece of low-quality American writing that contributes little to the Australian experience.
By C.J. Box
Head of Zeus (Bloomsbury)
$22.49; 288 pp