Monday, October 19, 2020

Back of Beyond by C.J. Box

Cody Hoyt is a cop with a drinking problem. But recently he's decided to make a go of being sober, if nothing else so he can be a better role model for his teenage son. 

All of that is upended when his sponsor turns up dead, the victim of an apparent accidental fire. At least, that's what the open bottle of liquor recovered at the scene would suggest. But Cody knows the man wouldn't have thrown away years of sobriety. He also knows that there are things about the scene that don't add up. Things that point to homicide. 

Unfortunately, Cody makes the mistake of shooting the coroner and getting suspended. And then he finds out there's a connection between his sponsor's death and an outdoor adventure group that just so happens to be hosting his wife's new husband and Cody's own son. Now the investigation is about more than justice for his friend, it's about saving his son!

C.J. Box is the author of the wildly popular and long running Joe Pickett series. And what kind of respectable mystery/thriller fan am I that I haven't read any of those?! To be fair, I have read Box's stand alone, Three Weeks to Say Goodbye, which I read in one sitting because it's that fabulous!

Back of Beyond is the first book to feature Cody Hoyt and also the first book in the Highway Quartet (which has grown beyond four books). Book two, The Highway, is the basis of Big Sky a new TV show premiering in November. And beyond it being the second book in the series, it brings back some characters (other than Cody and his son) from Back of Beyond. So it's fortunate that I can never easily bring myself to start a series mid stride, but have to start from the beginning by habit!

Cody is a likable but complicated character. He's got a big drinking problem, he tends to find it hard to trust people (and vice versa), and while the crusty detective who bucks authority makes for a great lead character in a series, Box explores a bit more of the complications that creates within the job of actual policing here. 

Cody has, in fact, pretty much burned every bridge he has. His wife, his colleagues, everyone except the man who was helping him through AA, who's now dead. So it's understandable that Cody would be reaching for something beyond accidental death or, worse, suicide. Though he is careful to bring in another detective and ask for his take on the scene before making any comment about his own thoughts. Which is to say, Cody is very good at his job even if he doesn't play well with others. 

The book transitions pretty quickly from the tiny town Cody calls home to the wilds of Yellowstone. It's remote, it's dangerous, and it's clear from the start that there's something going on with the actual tour outfit, thanks to a second narrator, Gracie Sullivan. 

Poor Gracie. Her father wants to connect with her and her older sister, Danielle, by taking them on this trip. And Gracie is actually interested in the experience. But Gracie is an observant person and she quickly deduces that there's something not quite right going on. I loved her, but she gets kidnapped in book two along with Danielle! 

Back of Beyond is a fun and engaging mystery. I loved the setting and I'm looking forward to diving into book two ahead of the show. (And continuing the series beyond that as well.) I'm always in the mood for a good PI series, and this one just might fit the bill. We'll have to see as the main character moves beyond Cody in The Highway

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

No comments: