The story itself: Kyle Westergaard is a twelve-year-old paperboy in Grimstad, North Dakota, the site of the oil boom. His town has exploded with workers from all fifty states and several other countries who live in "man camps" close to the sites. The rural farming town has turned overnight into a major oil producer with trains and trucks running around the clock. One morning in December he sees a fatal car crash and picks up a package thrown from the vehicle. Cassie Dewall, our other major character, is the brand-new Grimstad Chief Investigator tasked with eliminating the growing gang- and drug-related violence that's sprouted up in the wake of the new prosperity. Obviously, Kyle and Cassie's stories soon collide.
Box is not a particularly good writer. The sentences were often repetitive and stilted, and there were a couple major editing errors. His characters are okay, although I had some issues with the way he wrote Cassie. I didn't get the impression Box is all that comfortable or used to writing women. The story reminded me of A Simple Plan moved a few hundred miles west, without the psychological aspect and more brutality (not to mention casual racism). It was fast-paced and kept me turning pages, but mostly because I knew it wouldn't take long to finish and then I could move on to something else.
On the plus side, he nailed North Dakota. His descriptions of the prairie are dead on, especially in winter, when your nose hairs freeze as soon as you step outside. (Seriously. It happens.) The people, too, seemed right, at least what we got to see of the locals.
Overall, I wouldn't recommend it unless you've got an attachment to North Dakota or just need something quick and throwaway for a plane ride.
Author: CJ Box
Star Rating: 2 out of 5
Buy, Borrow, Skip: Skip
Bonus: Temps of 30 degrees below zero!