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Badlands    by C. J. Box order for
by C. J. Box
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2016 (2015)
Hardcover, Paperback, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Though I discovered C. J. Box's mysteries late in the series, I was instantly hooked and have followed them every since. Badlands is another rather dark, yet compelling read.

It's a sequel to The Highway, in that it stars detective Cassie Dewell who played a leading role in that thriller. And the Lizard King serial killer, whom she pursued in that story, is still in the wind. However, Cassie has finally had enough of her corrupt boss, Sheriff Tubman, and is on her way to a new job in North Dakota, as Chief Investigator. Unfortunately, there's plenty of corruption in Bakken County as well. Cassie's boss. Sheriff Kirkbride, seems to be on the straight and narrow, but he clearly does not trust all his deputies.

The story opens in North Dakota, as twelve-year-old Kyle watches a car wreck happen while half way through his paper route. He picks up a package thrown from the car and takes it home, where his mother's loser boyfriend T-Lock instantly takes possession of this large quantity of black tar heroin and cash. When T-Lock tries to sell the drugs through a friend, he gets on the radar of some very dangerous people. Fortunately Kyle, who suffered fetal alcohol syndrome and is perceived in the community as slow, is more aware of what's happening around him than most folk realize.

Cassie finds herself in the middle of a vicious gang war between an outlaw motorcycle group and Salvadorans known as 'the most violent gang in America.' Soon body parts show up all over town - and in Cassie's fridge. She works mainly on her own, though with help from undercover agent Ian Davis, who often disagrees with her methods.

C. J. Box can always be counted on for a gripping read and he's done it again in Badlands, in which young Kyle's movements and ultimate fate hold the reader's attention and pull interest through the story. And Cassie Dewell is a spirited and intriguing lead - I look forward to reading of more of her (often outrageous) exploits.

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