Friday, September 17, 2010

Found a great new author (for me): C. J. Box

C. J. Box has been writing for a while, but I just discovered him this week. I walked into the library, did my usual 'grab all the books that look interesting' tour, then ran out to carry on with my day. I happened to pick up two mysteries by C. J. Box just because the titles and covers caught my attention.

The first book I read was part of his Joe Pickett series. Blood Trail was published in 2008 by G. P. Putnam's Sons. I'm currently reading Blue Heaven, published in 2007 by St. Martin's Press.

If you're looking for vanilla "good guy always wins, gets the girl" type books, then Box is not your author! The two books I've read were almost 'dark' in their realism at times. Box doesn't candy-coat human foibles.

Readers get a good glimpse into the souls of those he writes about. You see their goodness, their seamier side, their character flaws and get a taste of their internal struggles with the choices they make and have made.

Blood Trail is set in Wyoming, Box's home state. The reader starts off walking in the mind and footsteps of the killer. You make the gruesome discovery of the gutted and flayed victim with Joe Pickett and others. As the blood trail expands to include other deaths Box leads you to a conclusion that surprised me and had me saying "Yes!". You'll see what I mean in the last chapter. I can't say more than that or I'll ruin it for you -- unless you're one of those who reads the last chapter first (something that I've never understood!).

Throughout the book Box drops little tidbits that might allow you to possibly figure out who the killer-hunter is before the end, if you pay close attention.

As I read the book I saw life just a little differently than I normally do sitting in my warm home down south. It's a tough world in the colder regions of our country!

As a non-hunter-type it was particularly interesting getting the perspective of conscientious hunters, hacks and those who completely oppose the idea of killing animals. There was just enough in the book to tease me into wanting to get a better understanding of the interplay between long-time ranchers and hunters and those who are moving in, trying to change their way of life.

Blue Heaven, the book I'm currently reading, is set in Idaho. Two children witness a brutal murder out in the woods and the chase is on. Box is thus far doing an excellent job of keeping me on the edge, wanting to turn the page to see what happens next. He again delves into the complexities of the human psyche. Without begin judgmental Box is painting pictures of the things that shape the lives and choices his characters make.

The story-lines in both books are great and the characters are believable, a winning combination. I'll be heading back to the library to pick up some of his other titles when I finish reading my current batch of library grabs. It looks like he's been writing for a while and has racked up a number of awards along the way. I don't know how I managed to miss his books all these years. I won't miss any in the future.

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