Badlands by C.J. Box

24740317Fiction – Kindle edition. Minotaur Books, 2015. 384 pgs. Library copy.

A year after the events of The Highway, the “Lizard King” has gone dark. Despite a nationwide alert, there have been zero reported sightings of the suspected murderer and his big rig. The man has seemingly disappeared into thin air, frustrating Lewis and Clark County Deputy Sheriff Cassie Dewell as his evasion is personal for her.

Cassie has also grown frustrated with her boss. The sheriff used her to jam up her former partner, Cody, and Cassie still feels guilty about that. Now, the sheriff barely acknowledges her after she uncovered the Lizard King’s accomplices, shifting the press’ attention from him to her. Determined to leave Montana, Cassie accepts a job in Grimstad, North Dakota where the Bakken oil shale has swelled the population and criminal activity.

The new job starts with the local sheriff asking Cassie to investigate a crime that seems more accident than homicide. The underwhelming nature of the case throws Cassie, but she quickly works out that the sheriff wants her to work alone because he doesn’t entirely trust the other guys on the force.

This lack of trust becomes all the more pertinent when parts of a dismembered body are found scattered around town, including the head that ended up in Cassie’s fridge. As works out the how and why and who, she learns that a young boy named Kyle Westergaard may be caught up in the horrific crime.

I had planned to hold off on reading this novel because of how horrific and stomach-turning the events of the previous novel in this series were. But, as I was facing a lengthy stint in the airport after a whirlwind business trip, I knew I needed to read a book on my Kindle that would be guaranteed to keep me engaged and awake. I’ve come to learn over the last two months that C.J. Box is just the author for those situations.

In that regard, the book did not disappoint. Events moved quickly and, while the identity of the dirty cops were more obvious than in previous books, the story still packed a number of twists and turns. I enjoyed the change in setting, and I particularly liked Cassie’s new boss and Kyle. I hope the two of them will be sticking around for the next novel in the series.

For all my trepidation, the Lizard King is a minor character in this one. He makes an appearance at the beginning of the novel, although only the reader is entirely sure its him, and the end lays out the ground work for his capture in the next book (hopefully). But he largely falls to the wayside as Cassie focuses on her new career.

That said, this book is unlikely to be a memorable one for me. It was a great way to kill time at the airport and then on my flight, but it doesn’t have the hook or the punch that The Highway does.

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