Blue Heaven by C.J. Box

February 4, 2008 at 2:47 pm (Book review, books, Mystery fiction)

Thirteen-year-old Annie Taylor and her brother William, age eleven, have set off for Sand Creek to do some fishing. Annie is irked at her mother Monica, who’s had a parade of boyfriends ever since their Dad took off. The latest one, Tom, is possibly the most annoying of all. He had promised to take William fishing and reneged by not showing up at the appointed time. Sometimes Annie feels like the only adult on the premises!

blue-heaven.jpg Annie and William are set to enjoy a few peaceful hours in a beautiful, remote setting, but fate suddenly intervenes: they become inadvertent witnesses to a murder. What’s even worse is that one of the killers locks eyes with Annie. From that moment forward, she and William are in mortal danger. All the events that follow in Blue Heaven are the result of that fateful encounter.

The Taylors live in North Idaho, where the action of this novel takes place. cj_box.jpg C.J. Box, who lives in Wyoming, obviously knows this territory well. He weaves issues concerning logging and land use and yuppie invasions into the fabric of the narrative without getting preachy or didactic. (Possession of firearms is not an issue; everyone seems to own at least one gun. Of course, that doesn’t always mean that you can get your hands on one at the precise moment that you need it…)

I especially loved the sense of place in this novel. There are characters here who genuinely and unashamedly love the land, and who can blame them? Having been to Wyoming myself last summer on my first visit to this part of the U.S, I can tell you, it’s an easy place to love. And once you’ve seen it, it’s much easier to understand why people fight so passionately to protect it from the depredations of developers and the extractive industries.

The plot of Blue Heaven kicks into high gear when rogue cops hijack law enforcement in the small town of Kootenai Bay. The officers in question are actually retired, but they still have muscle and know how to use it. Meanwhile,William and Annie Taylor, desperate and on the run, eventually find a protector, with the result that all of their lives are in jeopardy.

If all this sounds like it would produce edge-of-the-seat suspense – well, it does. The book is hard to put down, but at times I was so filled with foreboding it became hard to pick up!

open-season.jpg C.J. Box writes a series of mysteries featuring Joe Pickett, a game warden in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming. I read the first one Open Season, when it came out in 2001 and very much enjoyed it. Blue Heaven is a standalone; if there’s any justice – something that you’ll be ardently hoping for while you’re reading this book – Box will be now bumped up to the top of the list of great crime fiction writers currently at work in the U.S.


  1. Kay said,

    I’ve read a couple of books in the Joe Pickett series. I heard about this stand-alone and look forward to it. It sounds thrilling!

  2. Edgar Award nominees for 2009 - concluding with a sublime musical offering « Books to the Ceiling said,

    […] the list, courtesy of Sarah Weinman’s indispensable blog. I’ve read  C. J. Box’s Blue Heaven and think it well deserving of a place among the contenders for Best Novel.  Having read Half  […]

  3. An interlude, in which I treat of (book-related) matters close to home « Books to the Ceiling said,

    […] Blue Heaven by C.J. Box. (This mystery recently won this year’s prestigious Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel.) […]

  4. Books to talk about – a personal view « Books to the Ceiling said,

    […] Puccini’s Ghosts – Morag Joss Monsieur Monde Vanishes – Simenon The Ghost – Robert Harris Blue Heaven – C.J. Box Suffer the Little Children, A Sea of Troubles, Girl of His Dreams – Donna Leon […]

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