Paradise Valley by C.
J. Box is the finale in the Highway Quartet Series. Each book
is interconnected starting with Back Of Beyond that introduces
former sheriff Cody Hoyt. In the next book of the series,
The Highway, he becomes the mentor of his rookie partner Cassie
Dewell as they battle the serial killer the Lizard King. Box
has come full circle ending in the same setting that it all
began in, Paradise Valley with Cassie driven by events
that happened in The Highway.
Box is "debating internally if I will bring Cassie and
Company back. When I finished this book I thought how this
series is over, but I am still deciding. I never intended
to have two series running at the same time, and for this
to be a long running series. In fact, my next book called
The Disappeared will be a Joe Pickett story. He is assigned
by the Governor to find three English women who have vanished
after leaving a dude ranch."
In this installment, Cassie is out to capture the Lizard
King as she seeks restitution for the victims and revenge
for what he did to her friend, Cody. For three years, she
has been hunting for this serial killer whose stalking grounds
are the highways and truck stops, going after runaways and
prostitutes. Having a plan to trap him, it goes incredibly
wrong where she loses her job as an investigator for the Bakken
County, North Dakota sheriff's department.
The decision to have truck stops as an important aspect of
the plot came to Box, "after my youngest daughter was
driving back and forth from college to home, and had to deal
with all the trucks on the road. The nuts and bolts of the
truck information are all realistic. I decided to go on a
ride along with this married trucker couple. As we went across
the US Northwest I saw what a fascinating, unique and individualistic
lifestyle truckers have where the Interstate system is basically
their home. This couple literally had two weeks a year, living
in their actual ‘home.'"
The scene where the Lizard King decided to want an actual
home comes from Box’s trucker experiences. Yet, the
serial killer wanting a makeshift family kidnaps two women
and two boys. The boys are Cassie’s son’s friend
Kyle Westergaard and his buddy Raheem Johnson, who ran away
from home, seeking to imitate the adventures of Huck Finn
and Tom Sawyer. After capturing them, this psychopath achieves
complete control over his captives through violence by having
them wear an electric dog collar. Having nothing else to do
Cassie agrees to search for Kyle, which overlaps with her
pursuit of the Lizard King.
She is not the conventional heroine, being a bit overweight,
a single mom devoted to her son Ben, who juggles motherhood
and her career. Having Cassie's husband, a soldier killed
in Afghanistan, Box shows how complicated her life has become.
Although this book answers the question about what happens
to the Lizard King, her personal life is left open-ended.
The supporting cast of characters is very well written. Kyle,
first introduced in Badlands, returns. Although suffering
from fetal alcohol syndrome causing him to have a hard time
pronouncing his words, he is sharp and connects the dots.
Those helping Cassie in her search are the rough and tough
old outfitter Bull Mitchell while hindering her is the evil
Bakken County attorney Avery Tibbs.
Box wanted to write the County Attorney, "Tibbs as the
typical political climber who will stop at nothing to get
ahead. In my books, those concerned more with their own self-worth
than the general good will get poetic justice. I countered
him with Bull Mitchell who was based on a real person. He
is a rugged frontier kind of guy who reads to his wife children
books because she has Alzheimer's. Yet, when he is asked to
help out and is able to get back in the saddle he comes alive."
Everyone must contend with the Lizard King, named for kidnapping,
raping, torturing and killing truck stop prostitutes, aka
“lot lizards.” His Modus Operandi is to lure his
victims into his truck, inject them with a syringe filled
with Rohypnol, and stash them in the kill-room built into
his trailer. He videotapes his rituals and tortures his victims
for as long as a month before murdering and disposing of them.
Cassie knowing some of his tactics is determined to find justice
for so many lives lost at the hands of this killer.
The previous books in this series were a bit over the top
with the violence, but with this novel, Box has found a balance
in this gripping tale. Readers should find it mesmerizing.
Reviews of other titles in this series
Reviews of other titles by CJ Box
Joe Pickett Series
#15 Review 1
#15 Review 2
the Grid #16
Fired - Picket Short Stories