Badlands: A Cassie Dewell Novel Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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Audible Audiobook, Unabridged
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Edgar Award-winning, New York Times best-selling author C. J. Box is back with a masterpiece of suspense set in a time and place that listeners won't soon forget.
Twenty miles across the North Dakota border, where the scenery goes from rolling grass prairie to pipeline fields, detective Cassie Dewell has been assigned as the new deputy sheriff of Grimstad - a place people used to be from but were never headed to. Grimstad is now the oil capital of North Dakota. With oil comes money, with money comes drugs, and with drugs come the dirtiest criminals hustling to corner the market.
In the small town resides 12-year-old Kyle Westergaard. Even though Kyle has been written off as the "slow" kid, he has dreams deeper than anyone can imagine. He wants to get out of town, take care of his mother, and give them a better life. While delivering newspapers, he witnesses a car accident and takes a mysterious bundle from the scene. Now in possession of a lot of money and packets of white powder, Kyle wonders if his luck has changed.
When the temperature drops to 30 below and a gang war heats up, Cassie realizes that she may be in over her head. As she is propelled on a collision course with a murderous enemy, she finds that the key to it all might come in the most unlikely form: an undersized boy on a bike who keeps showing up where he doesn't belong. Because a boy like Kyle is invisible. But he sees everything.
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|Listening Length||8 hours and 57 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||July 28, 2015|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #10,590 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#73 in Small Town & Rural Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#238 in Women Sleuth Mysteries
#273 in Police Procedural Mysteries
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Seemingly overnight, this state turned surpluses in its budgets and has been promoting opportunities for employment across the national media. From the windows of a passing Amtrak Empire Builder train this past summer you could see the pumper jacks nodding their heads on small homesteads.
But with all this success comes a price: inadequate infrastructure to handle the demands of success and big business; minimal housing and eating places to satisfy newly hired crews; an influx of strangers with devious agendas dangerous to local law staffs and capabilities.
Using this tension and its Spartan setting, C.J. Box creates a highly charged atmosphere for his 2015 novel, “Badlands,” a tale about intrigue and gruesome murders.
The setting is the fictitious town of Grimstad close to the North Dakota-Montana border during early winter (think the 1996 film, “Fargo,” just on a smaller but colder scale, if possible). It is the hub of the oil development effort in this region.
Long lines of oil tankers are streaming through the frozen small streets of the town. The primary eating-places are either McDonalds or for a slightly more upscale treat, the Wagon Wheel Restaurant. Aside from the plain weather-beaten homes of the local families, primarily from Norwegian and other Scandinavian stock, there is the “man camp” housing for mainly transient and some permanent oil field employees.
Close to daybreak, twelve-year old Kyle Westergaard who has a speech impediment is biking on his paper route and happens to witness an unusual car accident caused by a car forcing another one off the road leading into Grimstad.
Two police cars also show up, one a little earlier, as if anticipating the accident. After calling in, they leave the scene long enough for Kyle to discover a bag thrown into the brush. It is filled with illegal drugs.
Meanwhile, in North Carolina Cassie Dewell, a police crime scene investigator from Montana, has been invited to interrogate an independent long-haul trucker suspected of being a serial murderer, aka “The Lizard King.” Although successfully getting him to implicate himself, she finds that the courts may likely release him on technicalities. The author seems to hint at a deeper frustration with the divergence between justice and the law.
Cassie also receives news that she has been hired by the Grimstaad police chief, Jon Kirkbride, as the new chief investigator - starting immediately. She leaves North Carolina and within two days reports to her new assignment in North Dakota.
Over the course of about six days events move rapidly with the bag of drugs and its whereabouts to be the MacGuffin for Kyle and his family, some local drug users (T-Lock and Winkie), two ruthless enforcers (“La Matanza” Escobar and “Silencio” Arguenta) for a Salvadoran drug cartel expanding out of Los Angeles and, of course, the local police force, including Cassie.
Developed through alternating storylines for the different characters, the plot moves at a quick pace – almost improbably for six days – against the pervasive frozen setting and the 24-hour hum of the oil industry. Chapter Nine offers a good down-to-earth summary of the basics about oil development and output in North Dakota. And there is enough technical detail to make the tools of murder and torture credible and chilling, reminiscent of the Martin Cruz Smith novel and 1983 film, "Gorky Park."
As a poignant counterpoint to the tension and violence is Kyle’s fantasy about escaping Grimstad on a raft with his best friend, Raheem, in a sort of Northern version of “Life on the Mississippi” with Huckleberry Finn and Jim.
However, inevitably the plot and many of the adult characters become more traditional in a sort of cops-pursuing-bad guys style. There are some modest twists and surprises but the ending is predictable in a Hollywood way. Even though the door is left open for more about the Lizard King, C.J. Box might have been able to retain some suspense with his most interesting character, Kyle.
To paraphrase Bob Dylan’s lyrics, “Badlands” is engaging travel to the North Country not so fair.
Kyle’s home environment is pretty bad. His mother works at a McDonald’s and her live-in lover is a slacker who goes by the name of T-Lock. When he gets wind of Kyle’s treasure in the recovered bag, he starts making plans to get a new car and possibly go into the drug business.
But there are other forces to contend with, not the least of which are some gangsters who want to get their hands on the contents of Kyle’s bag. The greater community around Grimstad is also flush with cash being earned by workers in the booming oil industry and this has attracted people who see a nice market for their drug trade. None of this is lost on the local police department, an organization that is staffed mostly with conscientious officers but a few who are looking for other kinds of rewards.
An outside police officer is brought in to help, Detective Cassie Dewell. She’s appeared in C. J. Box novels before. One of the most recent that I’ve read is one where her partner, Cody Hoyt was killed. While she’s assisting the Grimstad police, she’s also working part time trying to wrap up the the prosecution of a fellow we’ve met before, a long distance trucker called Lizard King. But it’s not going well and I have a hunch that the Lizard King may soon be back on the highway, luring women at truck stops (lizards) into dangerous situations.
The book’s central plot moves along smartly and we meet a large number of interesting characters. Mr. Box ensures that almost every person has some serious problems or character defects, giving the book a large dose of reality. Overall it was a very good read.
What's new and interesting in this book is the picture of life on the new frontier - the fast growing and exploding Bakken Oil fields of North Dakota. A massive influx of wage-hungry men and women (though largely plying different trades), overwhelmed local infrastructure and lawlessness gives a good picture of what any of the silver mining boom towns of the late 1800's must have been like. It also provides the stew in which this book's mystery evolves.
This is a good story weaving what appears to be the long thread of the Cassie Dewell series - the game of wits with The Lizard King introduced two books ago - and a crime scenario that will be wrapped up between the covers of this book. Also, you can feel the North Dakotan ruthless winters in the writing. It made me think of the premium I'd need to relocate to North Dakota!
Cassie Dewell is developing into an interesting character. I'll keep reading.
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