‘Par­adise Val­ley’ is taut, sus­pense­ful

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ENTERTAINMENT - BY OLINE H. COGDILL

“Par­adise Val­ley: a Novel’’ (Mino­taur), by C.J. Box

“Par­adise Val­ley’’ reaches the same level of fright­en­ing re­al­ism that made C.J. Box’s “The High­way’’ so ter­ri­fy­ing. A se­quel to that novel, “Par­adise Val­ley,’’ makes an ex­cel­lent con­clu­sion to Box’s grip­ping The High­way Quar­tet nov­els that have evolved into a hunt for a se­rial killer who works as a long-haul trucker.

The re­al­is­tic fright fac­tor soars be­cause Box uses the FBI’s High­way Se­rial Killer Task Force as a base for “Par­adise Val­ley’’ and “The High­way.’’

In “Par­adise Val­ley,’’ Cassie Dewell, chief in­ves­ti­ga­tor in the Bakken County, North Dakota, sher­iff’s depart­ment, is ob­sessed with find­ing killer Ron­ald Per­gram, an in­de­pen­dent trucker who preys on truck stop pros­ti­tutes. When a sting op­er­a­tion to en­trap Per­gram goes hor­ri­bly wrong, Cassie is forced to re­sign. But Cassie holds firm to her mis­sion of ar­rest­ing Per­gram, who is nick­named The Lizard King.

The dis­ap­pear­ance of three peo­ple where Per­gram has been seen leads Cassie to be­lieve that Per­gram has kid­napped them. One of those miss­ing is Kyle Wester­gaard, a trou­bled child for whom Cassie feels re­spon­si­ble. Work­ing on her own, Cassie fol­lows her in­stincts to track down Per­gram.

Box keeps “Par­adise Val­ley’’ taut, with twists that are as sus­pense­ful as they are be­liev­able. Ter­ri­fy­ing scenes at a truck stop, at a re­mote cabin and on a hill­top are not eas­ily for­got­ten. The in­tu­itive Cassie continues to dis­play her acu­men, and we hope Box will find new sto­ries for her and for Kyle, who suf­fers from fe­tal al­co­hol syn­drome. Although Box never al­lows sym­pa­thy nor em­pa­thy for Per­gram, Box does show a glim­mer of hu­man­ity that re­mains in this killer.

Box, best known for his lon­grun­ning se­ries about Wy­oming game war­den Joe Pick­ett, has be­come one of the best pur­vey­ors of sto­ries about the new Amer­i­can West. He vividly re­counts how this part of North Dakota has gone from a boom­town to a near bust with un­fin­ished sub­di­vi­sions lit­ter­ing the land­scape. As “Par­adise Val­ley’’ moves to Mon­tana, Box shows that the best travel writ­ing delves into a re­gion’s en­vi­rons.

Box, win­ner of the Edgar Award, again proves his su­pe­rior sto­ry­telling skills in “Par­adise Val­ley.’’

AP PHOTO

This cover im­age re­leased by Mino­taur shows “Par­adise Val­ley,” a novel by C.J. Box.

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