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Monday, 4 November 2013

‘The Highway’ by C J Box

Published by Head of Zeus,
15 August 2013.
978 1 7818 5114 2

A warning: if ever you’re driving cross-country late at night, steer well away from the truck drivers you’re sure to come across. Especially if you’re young and female. That’s the message I took away from The Highway, C J Box’s newest view of the dark recesses which lurk in north America’s more sparsely populated areas.

It’s a real David and Goliath scenario: rookie female cop hunts down psychopathic serial killer, desperate to catch him before his latest victims, two naïve teenage girls, meet the same fate as the countless truck-stop prostitutes who have gone before them.

Small-town detective Cassie Dewell, recruited to improve diversity in the local police force, is thrown in at the deep end, and soon learns she can’t trust anyone: not her renegade erstwhile partner Cody who has gone AWOL, not the police in the town where the girls disappeared, not even her own boss, Sheriff Tubman, a man with his own shady agenda.

The story is as sinister and tense as they come. It unfolds from several perspectives, each with its own clear voice, allowing the reader a full-circle view. You’d think knowing more than the protagonist about what was going on would lessen the tension; in fact it cranked it up, making me hold my breath as I waited to see how Cassie would work out who the bad guys were and how to stay one step ahead of them.

As well as Cassie herself, who earns her spurs pretty much as you might expect, the missing Cody and two of the most chilling bad guys I’ve ever encountered, the story is well seeded with quirky minor characters, including two of the most horrendous mothers in crime fiction. Some of the underhand and downright evil goings-on it recounts don’t exactly inspire confidence in law enforcement in the USA. And it sometimes gets a little more gory than I’m comfortable with, but that’s just personal taste.
It all adds up to a scary but riveting page-turner which freezes the bones and will make you think very carefully indeed before setting off on a long drive into America’s wilder regions.
It made me wonder why I hadn’t discovered C J Box before.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

C J Box is a Wyoming native and has worked as a ranch hand, surveyor, fishing guide, a small town newspaper reporter and editor, and he owned an international tourism marketing firm with his wife Laurie. In 2008, Box was awarded the "BIG WYO" Award from the state tourism industry. An avid outdoorsman, Box has hunted, fished, hiked, ridden, and skied throughout Wyoming and the Mountain West. He served on the Board of Directors for the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo. They have three daughters. He lives in Wyoming.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning.   
She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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