Wyoming author CJ Box has a new stand alone novel, a departure from his best selling series about Wyoming Game Warden Joe Pickett. In another departure from his earlier works this book is not set in Wyoming but in North Idaho, specifically in a part of that state that draws retired law enforcement officers from Southern California, a peaceful area of natural beauty far removed from the crime ridden urban sprawl, a place known by them as Blue Heaven.
The action starts with 12 year old Annie and her 10 year old brother William witnessing a murder as they search for a place to go fishing. On the run from the killers, the children are picked up by a family friend, a retired police officer from California, only to discover that he is part of the plot. As the search for the “missing” children intensifies, the retired police officers offer their services to the local sheriff and effectively take over the search.
Annie and William take refuge in a barn on one of the last two remaining working ranches in the county. They are discovered by ranch owner Jess Rawlins who has problems of his own, namely an ex-wife who cleaned out the bank accounts before leaving, a ranch that can’t generate enough income and real estate developers determined to turn his property into ranchettes. Jess believes enough of the kids’ story to check a few things himself before turning them over to the authorities.
Box again interweaves current western issues such as property development and the infusion of outsiders into small communities with larger themes like good versus evil to craft an enthralling, suspenseful adventure. His characters show that the bad guys weren’t always evil and the good guys aren’t always perfect and in a book that can seem like a modern day western, the good guy doesn’t always get to ride off into the sunset with the girl.
Blue Heaven and CJ Box’s other works are available at the Uinta County Library, 701 Main Street.
Review by Dale Collum