Monday, March 16, 2015

ARC Review: Badlands

C. J. Box
Cody Hoyt/Book 3
Minotaur Books/July 28, 2015

Twenty miles across the North Dakota border, where the scenery goes from rolling grass prairie to pipeline fields, detective Cassie Dewell has been assigned as the new deputy sheriff of Grimstad--a place people used to be from, but were never headed to--now the oil capital of North Dakota. With oil comes money, with money comes drugs, and with drugs comes the dirtiest criminals wanting to corner the market. 

In the same small town resides twelve-year-old Kyle Westergaard. Even though Kyle has been written off as the "slow" kid, he has dreams deeper than anyone can imagine. While delivering newspapers, he witnesses a car accident and now has a lot of money and packets of white powder in his possession. 

When the temperature drops to 30 below and a gang war heats up, Cassie finds that the key to it all might come in the most unlikely form: an undersized boy on a bike who keeps showing up where he doesn't belong.

A kid like Kyle is invisible. But he sees everything.

The setting, the writing, the characters are all classic Box. While this is technically the third book in the "Cody Hoty" series, it can be read as a stand alone. Cassie Dewell was a secondary character in the second book and now she takes the lead. She's a strong character but not without some flaws.

Badlands is not only the title of the novel but refers to the area of the United States where the story takes place. The badlands of North Dakota have undergone a serious transformation. With the oil boom, the landscape has gone from scenic to overcrowded with men, trucks and noise. It's this new landscape Cassie Newell finds herself thrown into. Cassie wants to get away from the corruption of her former police force so she takes a high paying job in Grimstad, North Dakota. The pay is high because the price of everything have skyrocketed. With fast food cashiers making $18 an hour, it's no surprise drugs have become more prevalent.

The intensity of the situation Cassie walks into is highly stressful. She is the new cop and the outsider but that isn't such an oddity since there are so many new people in town. What causes Cassie stress is she doesn't know which of her fellow deputies she can trust. This adds tension to the plot, moving it into dangerous situations for Cassie as well as for local Kyle Westergaard.

Kyle Westergaard has not had it easy in his twelve short years. He was born with fetal alcohol syndrome and while he may be a little on the slow side, he is tenacious. That trait, along with his inherit will to survive, combine to make Kyle an unlikely hero. It was interesting seeing the story through Kyle's eyes. He gives a different perspective than the adults. Kyle's point of view gave the story more depth and I'm glad Box took the chance on this unique character.

The plot starts out at a slow pace, with information about the oil boom peppered throughout. It doesn't really pick up speed until the last 100 or so pages, at which point the book is hard to put down. The ending was well done with enough of a teaser for the next book in the series.

Rating: B+

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