Title: Paradise Valley by C.J. Box
Highway Quartet Series Book Four
Cassie Dewell Series Book Three
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 350 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
She almost caught him once. Now, he’s back.
For three years, Investigator Cassie Dewell has been on a hunt for a serial killer known as the Lizard King whose hunting grounds are the highways and truck stops where runaways and prostitutes are most likely to vanish. Cassie almost caught him…once.
Working for the Bakken County, North Dakota sheriff’s department, Cassie has set what she believes is the perfect trap and she has lured him and his truck to a depot. But the plan goes horribly wrong, and the blame falls on Cassie. Disgraced, she loses her job and investigation into her role is put into motion.
At the same time, Kyle Westergaard, a troubled kid whom Cassie has taken under her wing, has disappeared after telling people that he’s going off on a long-planned adventure. Kyle’s grandmother begs Cassie to find him and, with nothing else to do, Cassie agrees—all the while hunting the truck driver.
Now Cassie is a lone wolf. And in the same way that two streams converge into a river, Kyle’s disappearance may have a more sinister meaning than anyone realizes. With no allies, no support, and only her own wits to rely on, Cassie must take down a killer who is as ruthless as he is cunning. But can she do it alone, without losing her own humanity or her own life?
In Paradise Valley, C.J. Box pits intrepid investigator Cassie Dewell against her longtime nemesis the Lizard King, a long haul truck driver and serial killer who has eluded capture for several years. This final installment of the Highway Quartet can be read as a standalone but I HIGHLY recommend the entire series.
Cassie’s patience has finally paid off and Ron Pergram aka the lizard King has finally taken the bait she has been dangling for the past the several years. With the trap set, Cassie, her boss Sheriff Jon Kirkbride and the rest of the Bakken County Sheriff’s department are poised to take Pergram into custody. However, the Lizard King cleverly turns the tables on them and in the process, kills and wounds several members of law enforcement. A month later, Cassie and Sheriff Kirkbride become political scapegoats for slimy and ambitious county attorney Avery Tibbs and Cassie resigns in order to protect Kirkbride’s career. She then turns her attention to finding two missing teenagers, Kyle Westergaard and Raheem Johnson, who vanished the same day her plan to capture Pergram went horribly awry. When she discovers local woman Amanda Lee Hackl also disappeared the same day as well, she is convinced her hunch that Ron is still alive is correct. Deeply worried that Kyle, Raheem and Amanda might have somehow crossed paths with the psychopathic serial killer, Cassie begins investigating the suspicious disappearances.
Cassie is a topnotch investigator with highly honed instincts and she leaves no stone unturned as she begins trying to locate Kyle and Raheem. She immediately stumbles onto a discovery that finds her traveling to the isolated small town of Ekalaka, MT. From there, Cassie uncovers evidence that solidifies several of her theories and her dogged pursuit of Pergram leads her to a place that reminds her of a tragic loss and bring to mind numerous recollections of the lessons that her old mentor Cody Hoyt taught her.
Interspersed with Cassie’s investigation are chapters about the Lizard King as he continues evading capture for his horrific crimes. He is still the same depraved and brutal man he has always been but he feels a surprising affinity for one of his victims. Pergram relies on cruel methods to keep his prey under his control but will he cover his tracks well enough to prevent Cassie from finding him?
Paradise Valley is an absolutely riveting mystery that is also quite suspenseful. Cassie is merciless in her attempts to find Kyle and Rasheem and she is definitely in her element as she wends her way across the vast and oftentimes desolate countryside while following every lead she unearths. Although somewhat bittersweet, Cody Hoyt’s presence is also keenly felt throughout Cassie’s hunt for the prolific serial killer that has eluded capture for so many years. Longtime fans of the Highway Quartet will also be delighted to be reunited with colorful characters from some of the earlier novels in the series. This newest release by C.J. Box is a marvelous conclusion to an engaging series that old and new fans are going to LOVE!