Review: CJ Box’s Blue Heaven … In this mystery set in northern Idaho, CJ Box has brought together a diverse group of characters, including:
A tough and headstrong rancher who is trying to save his family’s once prosperous property from creditors.
A UPS driver who is dating the mother of two missing children
A rural postman who yearns to be the center of attention, even if she has to get a little fanciful with the stories she tells.
Mysterious men spied on by a young woman who gives them made-up names: Driver, Ball Cap Man, Dark Man, and Wavy-Haired Man.
The driver of a red truck that may or may not be the salvation of two young men
A banker who finally understands the dire consequences of his decisions.
Retired LAPD Police Officers Who Seem To Find This Area Perfect For Their “Final Resting Place”
The local sheriff, a kind of weak knees, who takes the easy way out, no matter what damage it may cause
A volunteer search group, which includes some volunteers who are not doing any good.
Box weaves these characters and many others, both two-legged and four-legged, into an inflexible, unsentimental and suspenseful story. that, like a well-plotted mystery, has good and evil integrated into its characters. Even though we are outside looking inwards and we see the various threads that are woven into this mystery, it is not easy to separate good from evil, and the reader is pushed back and forth between each other-did-it-is- and-not-she-not almost from the opening scenes.
Jess, its central character, is not playing at being a rancher; He is the working owner of a working ranch, like his father and grandfather before him, and he has no intention of giving up and leaving, leaving his land to be used for purposes he cannot accept. He leads a tough and lonely life these days, making tough decisions that circumstances dictate.
Still, the reader soon sees Jess for what he is: one of the good guys, the really good guys, always trying to make decisions based on what’s best for everyone in whatever situation they find themselves in. But Jess is surrounded by corruption and venality, part of her can see and feel, part of her is well hidden, existing in people she should be able to trust.
He soon discovers that he must take a step, make a decision that could change his life. and that of two innocent young men. And not in a good way. But, Jess is Jess, one of the good guys that every good mystery needs, and he risks his home, his good name, maybe even his life to find and end the evil that is growing around him.
This story reaches the limit of the mysterious guessing games, although Box always gives readers a chance to decide for ourselves before it misleads us. And it poses interesting puzzles for us to ponder as we read, and perhaps for days after we’ve finished the story and the mystery has been solved. A well-hatched mystery like Blue sky It raises many ethical and moral questions along with the necessary legal ones.
We find ourselves wondering:
Why do men who have spent their lives enforcing the law tarnish the badges they wore for years by straying so far from their oath to serve and protect?
Why do bankers in a remote mountain community in Idaho succumb to today’s temptations and find themselves imitating their counterparts in the country’s financial centers?
Why do some men and women cling to the right path, even when it would be so much easier to step across the line between good and evil?
Box makes us think about these things, but it never strays from the characterizations it has built, And resist the temptation to lecture your readers as some authors do. Box describes the rugged mountainous country of northern Idaho and its equally rugged residents from the point of view of a man who knows the area and loves it. Jess’s love for his ranch and the community around him is easy to see and understand; belongs to this place and time.
As the story made its way through betrayal, hatred, and fear, through courage, honesty, and love, I found myself so involved with Jess that I almost stopped reading, fearing that Box would end what for me it would be wrong.
But of course I read to the end. Was it the correct conclusion to Jess’s story, from my point of view? Every writer and every reader knows that there really is no right or wrong way to end a mystery, or any kind of fiction, for that matter. So I leave that question unanswered.
Blue sky it’s a good read, lots of action, lots of plot twists and turns, just the right amount of good and bad characters. You will have to decide for yourself on the conclusion.