02 November 2011

Wilderness adventure

Another book that family pusher Mary left with us was C. J. Box's new book, Back of Beyond.

I approached this book with a fair amount of caution. I've liked some of Box's books and disliked others. I was especially cautious after the enthusiastic pleasure of reading J. A. Jance's Betrayal of Trust. Some of Box's books were so violent and intense that I couldn't read the at bedtime. I do need my beauty sleep, you know. Besides, I was in the midst of a writing project of my own. (Be assured, you won't be interested in reading lesson plans for teaching comparative politics.)

So I began slowly and read a chapter at a time sporadically. I was trying to get a feeling for what was to come later. There was a lot of foreshadowing in the early chapters, and I wondered how far I would get into this story. I began anticipating a suspenseful, long, frightening drama of good guys hunting bad guys in the wilderness of Yellowstone.

The main character (Why is it that I resist using the term "star?") is disgraced Denver detective Cody Hoyt. He got a second chance at his career in a county cop shop in rural Montana. Box has created a character so flawed, that he's almost a parody of the mystery/adventure novel "star." Hoyt goes off the deep end (again) when his AA sponsor is killed and his son heads off on a wilderness pack trip with a man who is to become his step-father. Of course, the killer might also be on that pack trip. And no one knows who that killer might be.

Fortunately, to my little mind, Box exercises his writing skills in complicating the plot rather than creating frightening suspense. Horses and bears and wilderness plus competing evil plots and a couple fathers trying to bond with adolescent children, accompanied by an old codger who knows how to handle horses, make a good mix.

Yes, it's violent and bloody, but I wasn't tempted to quit reading. I actually read the last 100 pages avidly.

I really liked Back of Beyond. The flawed main character actually had some redeeming qualities. I'm sure I wouldn't like the guy, but he was brave and smart (mostly). His efforts to find and protect his son were admirable (mostly). My immediate reaction would be that the ends didn't justify the means, but this story is is like one of those ethical dilemmas that appear regularly in philosophy texts. So, maybe the ends did justify the means in this case. (Philosophers can jump in at any time here and present arguments.)

Have you read Back of Beyond or another of Box's novels? Write and tell this little bit of the world how you reacted?

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