C.J. Box takes a momentary step away from his popular Joe Pickett novels with BACK OF BEYOND. Those of us awaiting the resolution (or steps toward one) of the intriguing ending of COLD WIND will have to wait a bit longer. In the meantime, Box’s fans will find his new book somewhat challenging. It contains some of his finest writing, enough that one could call it a flawed masterwork. I use the term “flawed” for reasons that I will make clear later in this review. Nevertheless, BACK OF BEYOND is a riveting, unforgettable work.
"Box does some of his best writing here (and for a wordsmith of his caliber, that’s really saying something) in describing Cody’s fall from personal grace..."
The focal point is a gent named Cody Hoyt, a sheriff’s investigator for Lewis and Clark County, Montana. Cody will be the first to admit that he is a bent cop, in the sense that he takes shortcuts, doesn’t color in the lines, and is a loose cannon. Did I mention he is an alcoholic as well? As the book opens, Cody is two months into a sobriety program, though he remedies that state of affairs in due time. The issue of whether alcoholism is a disease or a character disorder is pretty well resolved in Cody’s case; by his own admission, he was born with his wires crossed. His reputation as a troublemaker precedes him wherever he goes.
Box does some of his best writing here (and for a wordsmith of his caliber, that’s really saying something) in describing Cody’s fall from personal grace and, even more importantly, why it happens. The “why” involves the burning death of Hank Winters, Cody’s friend and sobriety sponsor. At first blush, Hank’s demise appears to be by misadventure. But Cody isn’t entirely convinced, and after he begins kicking over some evidence, he uncovers a pattern of suspicious deaths and a trail that leads to a week-long horseback trip through Yellowsto