67 of 74 people found the following review helpful
A very Good Character and Action Driven Thriller
, August 2, 2011
This review is from: Back of Beyond (Hardcover)
Back of Beyond by C. J. Box is just what a mystery thriller should be - a wild ride through twists and turns with rogue characters that have depth of spirit and lots of baggage. This book is a hardcore page-turner with characters the reader gets to know well. It's well-plotted and everything comes together just when it's supposed to; no red herrings and no deus ex machina. Box knows exactly how to plot his book so that each page brings the reader closer to crisis and then conclusion. There is the dark side that is required in order for good to prevail and there are lots of cold, dark pathways that wind their way to a fine conclusion.
Cody Hoyt is a rogue cop with a history of alcoholism and wild behavior. If he doesn't like a suspect he will shoot him in the knee to get a confession. He's been kicked out of the Denver police force and finds himself back in Helena, Montana where his people hail from. As he self-describes his family, they're `white trash'. The only good thing to his credit is his son Justin, who has turned out to be a good kid raised primarily by his ex-wife, Jenny.
As the book opens, Cody has been on the wagon for 59 days and is participating in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). His AA sponsor, Hank, is a man Cody trusts and who has guided him to his tentative sobriety. Cody finds out that Hank's cabin has been destroyed by fire and that Hank has been killed. It appears, at first, to be a suicide but after careful investigation, Cody realizes it's a homicide. He knows Hank and he knows that Hank would never take his life. He also realizes that Hank's AA coins are missing and Hank never kept these coins far from his person. Whoever killed Hank stole the coins and made the scene look like a suicide. The only person who believes Cody is his partner, Larry.
The clues that Cody finds lead him to an outfitter called Wilderness Adventures run by one Jed McCarthy. Jed is a narcissistic self-promoter who is about to start his longest trip of the season into Yellowstone Park. He calls this trip `Back of Beyond' because it goes so deep into the National Park. Unfortunately, Cody finds out that his son, Justin, along with Jenny's fiancé, are on this trip. He tries to get to Yellowstone in time to prevent the trip from starting but doesn't make it.
Meanwhile, Cody gets suspended from the Helena police force and must make the trip alone as a civilian. He realizes that he's being followed and stalked and that his very life is in danger. As he gets closer to the park, there is an attempt on his life. Cody becomes paranoid and doesn't know who to trust. Could his partner Larry be his nemesis?
The book has a lot of good information on alcoholism and recovery, both the disease, the confidentiality and the rehabilitation process. It shows Cody's constant efforts to remain sober along with his slips. It also shows him picking himself up again to get on the wagon. I was impressed by how much Box knows about AA and the program.
The reader can't help but notice the author's love and respect for the wilderness. His descriptions of Yellowstone and its geologic formations are breathtaking. We get to see Wyoming and Montana from the eyes of a writer who loves the spaces of the great outdoors.
Back of Beyond is hard to put down. It's one of those thrillers where each page adds new information and each of the characters are interesting. The book comprises the best of both worlds - it is character and action driven. It may be a bit formulaic but it's a great formula, one that keeps the reader on his toes and coming back for more. A solid 4.5.
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