Back of Beyond by C J Box

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Back of Beyond by C J Box

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: Maverick police detective Cody Hoyt discovers that a good friend of his is dead. Some say it's a simple case of either suicide or accidental death but Cody knows the background and something about this death just doesn't add up - but can he get to the bottom of it and also convince his colleagues?
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: August 2011
Publisher: Corvus
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1848872981

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C J Box is described on the back cover as up there with the likes of Michael Connolly and Harlan Coben, both of whom I've read. So, it was off to a pretty good start. The front cover graphics and large print scream out 'thriller'. We get the essence of Cody early on. He's a man who likes to do his own thing and doesn't take kindly to orders or red tape. All that red tape is shit, is probably how Cody would describe it in his own colourful and down-to-earth fashion. He looks older than his years. Maybe that's down to a messy domestic life and also to the hours he puts in on the job. He lives on his own and has a teenage son he doesn't see often enough. Oh, and he smokes like a chimney and drinks like a fish. In short, he's a mess. But somehow he stumbles through his police work - with a lot of help and support from a long-suffering colleague.

Box sets the scene for his readers: the woods and mountains of Montana. The miles clocked up by Cody on quiet, lonely roads, some no better than a dirt track which is sometimes shared by the odd animal or two. Cody investigates the burnt-out cabin of his deceased friend. Due to weather conditions there's the odd clue enabling the police to build up a picture of events and how a man ended up dead inside. Cody can't leave it alone. He feels sure that there's been foul play and he's determined to pursue all leads but it's an uphill struggle. Box meticulously takes us through every part of this modest cabin home, turning over the charred debris. The language and the dialect is local, American and natural on the page. There's a handful of minor characters, some who have quirky nick-names.

Cody himself is a likeable but complex character. There's no doubt I'd want him on my side though. He's thorough. We see how he interacts with others and this book is not without its funny moments. As the plot develops, we see Cody desperate to get in touch with a small travel company (one-man band really) which runs adventure treks through the back of beyond - basically fairly wild terrain negotiated, carefully, on horseback. These trips are expensive and Box gives us an interesting mix of individuals on this particular trek. So, for example, there's a single woman (a bit suspect), a trio of young men who work on Wall Street, a divorced father giving his two teenage daughters the holiday of a lifetime...

And what's even more interesting is that these individuals (in the main, successful people in their chosen line of work) now have to toe the line, obey instructions from the trek guide. Friction can develop ... and does. Thankfully, Box gives his readers a couple of lines on each character but I still found I was flicking back and forth to check on who was who from where, if you see what I mean. Interspersed with the progress of this trek, there's Cody who's trying to catch them up. But why?

It's not really the type of book I would have as a first choice, but I enjoyed it. It's not all gung-ho action on every page but rather a nice, measured pace with plenty of time to get to know the characters. I can see this book having broad appeal for all those thriller readers out there. Recommended.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag. We also have a review of Three Weeks to Say Goodbye by C J Box and you might enjoy The Ranger by Ace Atkins.

If this book appeals then try Missy by Chris Hannan.

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