I raced through this novel from a few years ago, one of my finds at our book sale. Anything by C. J. Box is an automatic grab after all, and this one really had my heart pounding. It begins with two children, Annie and her younger brother William, witnessing a murder. Then one of the killers sees them and the chase is on.
The setting is a small town in Idaho that is in transition because a large number of retired cops have moved there from Los Angeles. They've brought money but even as they claim to want a different, less stressful life, they've brought big city habits with them. Some have built enormous mansions and they drive their SUVs through town like they own the place. The people who loved their little town and surrounding ranches aren't necessarily happy about the changes or the people who brought them about. When word gets out that the kids are missing, they take over the investigation from the rather weak police chief who is out of his depth.
Our hero is a rancher who is in financial trouble and about to lose his beloved ranch. It's been in the family for generations but he has hit hard times. He's in his early 60s and he's a kind man who suffered when he had to let his last ranch hand go. I loved Jess Rawlins. He and the kids make the whole book in my mind.
This is a thriller with a subplot of another retired cop trying to trace money from a robbery at Santa Anita racetrack several years earlier in which a young guard was killed, leaving a wife and kids. All of the characters, good and evil and somewhere in-between, are skillfully depicted so you get more and more tense as the story plays out. At times I was breathless when the action heated up and I worried about the good guys.
One character is a staple in every small town I've ever known. In this town she's a rural mail carrier but she could be anything. She's a thoughtless gossip who craves attention and has no compassion for the people she's hurting. She also thinks she's attractive (not!) and has her eye on Jess Rawlins. And she's loud, so when she's spreading gossip she lets everyone around her hear what her imagination has come up with.
I happened to read this at the time the 16 year old California girl and her kidnapper were found in Idaho. That added even more color to the background as I read, especially when the horse riders who saw and reported them were interviewed. I could imagine how those two couples would resent the intrusion of city people into their lives.
This is an action-filled thriller with great characters and I hope you'll read it and other C. J. Box novels.
Source: book sale