‘Will jolt readers from the book saying NO WAY’ – The Highway by CJ Box

thcjbThe Highway is the third Cody Hoyt book that CJ Box has written (and only the fourth non-Joe Pickett novel in his 17 book history) and not only is it his best non-Joe book it’s quite possibly (whisper it) his best novel to date. There. I said it.

The novel opens in the company of one Cassandra Dewell, an investigator for the Lewis and Clark County Montana Sheriff’s Department, who is hiding out on a stakeout in the foothills of the Big Belt Mountains waiting to see if her partner Cody Hoyt will try and plant evidence in a crimescene as her boss suspects. Of course he does and Cassie rather unwillingly sees her sort of mentor kicked off the force.

Meanwhile, a long haul truck driver who thinks of himself as the Lizard King (there are certain conventions, it should be said, within a crime novel – if you can’t give yourself up to them, they will never be for you) is busy looking out for the lot lizards (prostitutes to you and me) who the King likes to perform all manner of horror upon. On this particular occasion, however, things don’t work out and the King exits the truck stop and chances across…

Two sisters, Danielle and Gracie, who should be on their way to their dad’s house but have veered off course to allow Danielle to visit her boyfriend Justin who just happens to be… that’s right, Cody Hoyt’s son. Seasoned Box readers will recognise the girls from the last Hoyt novel Back of Beyond. Danielle and Gracie converge on the old Lizard King and things don’t work out too well for them – but thankfully Hoyt and his ex-partner Cassie are on the case and the search makes for a furious and compelling read.

Now, in the past we may have complained about the fact that Cody Hoyt was something of a crime stereotype, the rogue copper who tears up the rulebook but gets better results than anyone else etc etc etc. This time around, Box takes one of his old tricks (not giving the reader any details about a second character to allow us to be wrongfooted, as he did way back in Open Season) and has his reader working hard to try and guess who the back-up baddie might be – only to then deliver a knockout punch (of the Jo Nesbo Phantom variety) that will jolt the readers from the book saying NO! WAY! Or at least it will jolt any readers who are like me.

Beyond the knockout twist, we have a Fargo-style story that largely concentrates on Cassie to the novel’s benefit. Sure it’s escapist, sure it’s not serious literature but all of that aside, it’s a royal blast, I liked it. If you like this kind of thing, you’ll like it too. If you don’t do the whole ‘mass market / crime books that sell’ thing you’ll no doubt continue to give it a wide berth. More fool you.

Any Cop?: Box gets better and better and this is better than his best. Enjoy.

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