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by C.J. Box
Minotaur, July 2017
320 pages
ISBN: 1250051045

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It's rare that I put down a mystery novel and say, “Well, that was a satisfying ending.” PARADISE VALLEY caused me to do just that, however. The Cassie Dewell quartet is complete with this fourth in the series, so it's not only the book but also the series that is concluded so well. Box is a master at creating believably flawed characters without sacrificing a moment's worth of compelling plot. In this book he takes Cassie from the oilfields of Grimstad, North Dakota, to the wilds of Yellowstone National Park in Montana, providing the reader with the experience of this remote setting.

Cassie, who works for the sheriff's office in Grimstad, has been tracking a murderous long-haul trucker across the country for several years. As the book opens, he is headed to Grimstad and she has set a trap for him. When the operation goes terribly wrong, Cassie loses her job and becomes something of an unofficial private investigator. The "Lizard King" whom Cassie has been tracking may have taken a developmentally disabled young boy into captivity, and though Cassie is no longer a member of law enforcement, she calls upon her professional relationships to help her find and save him.

The Lizard King is a sick and twisted man who is so well written by Box that it makes complete sense when a teenage girl he attempts to kidnap senses his creepiness without any tangible evidence of evil. Kyle, the captive boy, is believably complex with his unique combination of strengths and weaknesses. And one does not have to have read any of the previous books to come to know Cassie's struggles with her own private demons and understand how these play out in her more public struggles. Minor characters are not ignored, so that the reader may feel as though they are long-time friends, colleagues, or acquaintances.

Thrilling plot, evocative setting, deep characterization; this book has them all. On the one hand, it is upsetting to think this is the last in the series. On the other hand, Box has left the door open for a continuation of Cassie's story and if Box brings Cassie back, it wouldn't be the first time an author has set out to write a quartet and then given us additional books (e.g., Ann Cleeve's Shetland series). I am hoping to see where Cassie lands in book five of the "quartet."

§ Sharon Mensing, retired educational leader, lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors in rural Wyoming.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, August 2017

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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