Tuesday, August 16, 2011

'Back of Beyond': Welcome to Hell-o-Stone

Review: BACK OF BEYOND (Macmillan Audio 2011)
By guest blogger Star Lawrence
Author, C.J. Box; read by Holter Graham

First, I look for a character to follow or empathize with, then try to figure out what trouble he or she is in.

This book starts out with an ex-alkie, nicotine-jonesing cop named Cody Hoyt banging around the backwoods in Montana, plowing into an elk, and then getting to a rain-soaked, burned up cabin containing the crisped remains of his AA sponsor. Naturally, Hoyt sits in his car and slurps some booze he stole from a witness, which irks his partner Larry no end.

Hmmm, this is my protag? (He also helps himself to phones and equipment from the property room as if it were Walmart in there.)

With some alcohol-infused detection, he develops the notion that his teenage son and his wife's intended second husband are on a pack trip into Yellowstone with the killer. Whoa—quite a leap there.

We cut to two teenage girls who are on the trip with their dear old Dad. One is a cheerleader type and the other is a commonsense, observant youngster, who soon notes that Dad might just have known a single woman named Rachel, who is also on the trip. Hey, they didn't just meet, she deduces. Very good, Gracie!

Back to the crime, remember that? There is a school of red herrings coursing through the park. Everyone did it! There, I solved it.

But no…pretty soon, the unhappy campers start falling—their remains immediately set upon by ravening wolves or grizzlies. The wildlife is wild in this!

I can't say much more without spoilers. Let's just say screenwriters are only allowed one coincidence per script and this book exceeded that quota.

I did like some of the writing quite a bit—phrases like "sudsy stars" appearing. I have been to Yellowstone and the stars are so visible they look like foam. I am leery of woods, personally, and descriptions of wolves as 175-lb dogs with red bloody teeth hunched over a corpse tended to stick with me. The reader Holter Graham also had a pleasant tenor voice and didn’t ham it up.

Some scenes went on too long (hint, the peeping Tom scene at the latrine). And would Cody really frisk every corpse he found for cigs?  Well, on that one—yes. He is quite the protag. I bet he also kept the satellite phone he "found" in the evidence room.

Star Lawrence owns two blogs— http://HEALTHSass.blogspot.com and a recession site called http://HopeyCopey.blogspot.com. She is a long-time reporter.

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