Blue Heaven Hardcover – Jun 6 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
At the start of this overly complicated thriller from bestseller Box, his first stand-alone, siblings Annie and William Taylor, ages 12 and 10, witness a gruesome murder in the woods outside the small Idaho town of Kootenai Bay, nicknamed Blue Heaven for its abundance of retired LAPD officers. Annie and William make a run for it after they're spotted by the killers, a group of crooked LAPD cops who retired to Idaho eight years earlier after pulling a complicated heist in California that left a man dead. Rancher Jess Rawlins becomes the children's only hope of survival after they take refuge in his barn. Jess must stay one step ahead of the killers, who have volunteered to help the local authorities investigate the children's disappearance. Annie and William's mother is frantic, as the scheming officers try to persuade her the children are gone for good. A subplot involving a retired California detective pursuing the original robbery case adds too many extra characters and undercuts the suspense. Readers expecting the same brisk story lines as the author's Joe Pickett crime novels (Free Fire, etc.) will be disappointed. 100,000 first printing; author tour. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“A thriller with a heart.” ―The Boston Globe
“One of the best thrillers of the year. It kept me up most of the night, the way few books have ever done. C.J. Box owes me a night's sleep!” ―Tess Gerritsen
“A first-rate thriller, peopled by complex characters and unpredictable action. Don't miss it.” ―T. Jefferson Parker
“A first-rate, edge-of-your seat read.” ―Omaha World-Herald
“A non-stop thrill ride--a provocative suspense novel that has you rooting for the characters every step of the way.” ―Harlan Coben
“An unusual, intelligent thriller that resonates long after the last page is turned.” ―George Pelecanos
“A suspenseful tour de force.” ―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Relentless. C.J. Box sucked me in with good cops, bad cops, and missing money, then blind-sided me with unexpected twists and surprises in this novel of clashing cultures and dark secrets. Box delivers the goods!” ―Robert Crais--This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition. See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
But once at the creek, the children witness an execution-style murder and are now on the run from the three men who spotted them. Only, it's not just the three men: after being rescued, Annie quickly learns that their rescuer is in on it as well. Again on the run, they've taken refuge in Jess Rawlins's barn.
Retired Santa Anita policeman, Eduardo Villatoro, has come to town, wanting to solve a case that still haunts him. A few years back, after the races in Santa Anita, several million dollars was being transfered from the racetrack to the bank. The armored cars were stopped and one of the officers were killed. All this time, the killers were never found, the money still missing. But several of the bills that matched the recorded serial numbers have been deposited lately, most through a bank in Kootenai Bay (Blue Heaven). Villatoro is determined to solve this last case.
Rawlins, an old-school rancher, thinks at first that Annie and William couldn't have witnessed what they said they did. It didn't make any sense; especially when the supposed killers turn out to be retired policemen from Los Angeles.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Reading award-winners is not a strategy I often follow, but I like the Edgar awards (and the Mystery Writers of America), because they seem relatively free of the pretension, vanity, and faddish-ness that pervades other literary awards. Therefore I at least try to peruse the fiction nominees and winners. There are so many books out there, and without the Edgars I would never have been aware of Mr. Box's novel. So thank you, MWA.
Now, back to "Blue Heaven". Other reviewers have perceptively noted that this is a modern Western, in ways both subtle and obvious. The obvious western touches include the setting--it takes place in the Mountain West (North Idaho)--and a hero who is, literally, a cowboy. The less-obvious Western hallmarks are found in the narrative structure. Much like a classic Western, the bad guys are known from the beginning (it is not a mystery in the classic sense). Furthermore, the novel builds to an inevitable showdown between the hero and the villains, a final, frenzied scene of violence that would not be out of place in a dusty, sun-bleached frontier town of the late 19th century.
Although the villains are revealed at the outset, Mr. Box takes more time to explain the motives for their crimes, but the "why" is never really important. Indeed, the back-story of the original crime that motivates the rest of the narrative is one of the book's weak points, but the novel is little affected by it. Mr. Box seems to understand the concept that Alfred Hitchcock famously labeled "the MacGuffin". That is, the motivating crime doesn't really matter if the characters are compelling and the action is well-written. Mr. Box succeeds admirably on both counts, and it's enough to know that these dudes did something bad, and they don't want anyone to know about it.
After slogging through another Lee Child book (my last, I assure you--I had read one before and did not like it much, and decided to give him another chance since he seems to be so popular...a complete waste of time), it was refreshing to pick up "Blue Heaven" and encounter such richly drawn characters. Whereas Mr. Child's Jack Reacher is inhuman and boring, Jess Rawlins is an immensely sympathetic hero who is also (GASP!) 63 years old, a cuckold, and on the verge of losing his ranch due to financial mismanagement. He is divorced and estranged from his only child. He is also a man out of touch with the times, cut from an older cloth of simplicity, duty and honor; he is at once pitiful and admirable. This ambivalence carries over to Mr. Box's other characters. The author does an admirable job of creating figures who inhabit a world of real emotion--of joy and sorrow, ambition and greed, success and failure, hope and disappointment, and of love, as well. They live lives in which decisions have consequences, often unanticipated and far-reaching.
Mr. Box balances his cast of characters throughout the story, frequently changing perspectives as the narrative progresses through an extremely busy weekend. Juggling all of these points of view while sustaining coherence and momentum is no mean feat, and Mr. Box largely succeeds. There are a few miscues. For example, (spoiler alert) it's never entirely clear why an apparent samaritan who turns out to be one of the villains fails to hand the witnesses over to his co-conspirators. But overall, the plot development is engaging and exciting.
As I mentioned above, I am not familiar with Mr. Box's other work. Upon reading this book, I was left impressed by his plotting and characterizations, and somewhat disappointed by his style. He has a knack for evoking personal detail and drawing compelling sketches of his characters, and he writes action sequences with the brisk, simple style that befits them. But throughout the novel I encountered wince-inducing turns of phrase that should have been weeded out by a good editor. "Blue Heaven" is riddled with amateurish writing, which is why I was surprised when I discovered that Mr. Box had so many other, prior books. I repeatedly found myself taken in by the story, only to be jolted by some very poor writing choices. It's unfortunate, because it mars what is an otherwise entertaining and ambitious book.
It could have been great, but I'll settle for very, very good.
So when I saw that C. J. Box won this year's Edgar Awards, I quickly checked it out from my local library.
That was yesterday. Today, I finished the last page of an immensely satisfying book. BLUE HEAVEN is a story about two children who witness a murder, the old rancher who vows to protect them, and a conspiracy of retired LA police officers who want to shut them up.
Each chapter propels the story along from one of several different characters' perspective, and though some of these characters make mistakes, we find ourselves rooting for almost all of them.
Plus, the novel slowly reveals the nature and depth of conspiracy over the course of the book that's very rewarding. C. J. Box shows us how that conspiracy has ensnared the small Idaho community BLUE HEAVEN is set in.
And, like many modern Westerns such as TRUE GRIT or UNFORGIVEN, BLUE HEAVEN paints a picture of a small-town lifestyle that is modern suburban development and big box stores are eating up "like a snack".
Box writes in clean, economical prose that captures the setting, characters, and tension in the plot almost perfectly. Very highly recommended.
Another complaint is the believability, especially with the ending. Oh sure, it was a tear-jerker, heavy on the emotions. It still lacked in the believability department. I do think this is a good time to add, I'm a minority in my thinking. Most readers raved and raved about it.