Minotaur Books, ISBN 978-0312583200
July 30, 2013, 400 pages
There is a world out there, one which many of us never give a second thought to. It is the world of the long distance trucker...hour after hour, day after day, spent alone in the cab of their trucks, with stops for the essentials at the truck stops dotting our highways. Fuel, food, a shower, and for some, maybe some female companionship in the form of the prostitutes that prowl the idling trucks, the 'lot lizards'. But a few of these men are looking for something else at those stops, victims for their horrible crimes, victims no one will miss. And as the book opens we meet one particularry nasty example of these horrible men. He thinks of himself as the Lizard King, and he see himself as king of the road and king of the woman he drugs and kidnaps, abuses and finally kills.
Into this world, drives two sisters, 18 years old Danielle and her luckily more sensible sister 16 year old Gracie. They are supposing to be driving from home in Denver to visit their father in Omaha for thanksgiving, but Danielle has other plans. She is taking a detour to go visit her boyfriend Justin Hoyt in Montana, unknown to her parents, Justin or even her sister until it is too late. She ignored that 'check engine' light for hours, drove off the main highway to avoid a road blocked by an accident, and worse of all, attracted the attention of the Lizard King. When their car finally breaks down, in a canyon with no cell reception, their worse fear is that they will be late arriving at Justin's. then they see that big black peterbilt truck coming up the road, and at least the one of them with any sense knows things are about to get much much worse.
Justin's father, officer Cody Hoyt, is having a bad day too. His partner Cassie has been forced to spy on him and found evidence of wrongdoing that allowed the sheriff, never a fan, to fire him. Feeling very sorry for himself, several years of sobriety go down the drain that night, so when his son comes looking for his help to find the girls, he is not in the best of conditions. Still Cody not at his best is better than most, and with Cassie's help he is off on the their trail...and a horror he can only begins to imagine. Still, he had not been so hungover he might have been more alert to the danger he was walking into. When Cody too disappears, Cassie is on her own, to find the girl and to save her partner.
I have read a few of Box's other books, but they were the ones in his award winning Joe Pickett series and I did not read the previous Cody book, Back of Beyond. Once again we are out in the wild and rather empty west, but this time the view is much darker, much more gritty. It almost reminded me of an episode of the TV series criminal Minds, dark and scary and a bit gruesome. Here are not many people here to like, to identify with, because one is more evil and repulsive than the next. That is, with the exception of Cassie Dewell, a widow, a single mom, and a strong, smart woman working to overcome all the misogynistic men surrounding her, someone who I hope we will see again in the future. then there is Gracie, a great young girl, a great character with so e of the best dialogue of the book. Which is saying so etching because the dialogue in this book is very good. Grace under pressure indeed!
As I said, I will warn you, this is a dark book. No rainbows and puppies here, just some examples of the worse, more scary sort of people out there. What is maybe the scariest is that some of them are not people you might suspect. And all too believable. And I must say I will never pull into a truck stop on my of my road trips in quite the same frame of mind again. The talk about FBI xxxx who are looking into disappearing woman, looking for suspects among the nations road warriors was a little eye opening. But , that being said, it is not a violent book really. No most of the violence takes place off screen happily or I might have call it quits. Even I , an admitted serial killer fan, can only take so much and I have a bit of an issue with these books with victimized young women..happily, here the hero is also a woman, that equalizes things a bit. An intense, scary thriller, maybe not for the faint of heart, but if that is your cuppa tea, this one will certainly grab your attention.
My thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.