I’m on deadline today for my review of the new C. J. Box novel, Blood Trail (Putnam). A couple of years ago, I complained that Mr. Box had deprived me of a good night’s sleep. At the time, I’d just returned from spending three months at home with my first son, and the readjustment to business hours was proving rocky.
Well, Box did it again on Wednesday night. And, with a second son who’s–how do I say this politely?–slumber-challenged, I could still use the shut-eye. But I defy anyone to get within 50 pages of the end of a Box novel and just stop, no matter how scratchy their eyes are.
Despite the number of terrific books that I’ve been fortunate enough to review for Booklist, it’s pretty rare when I find that I can’t stop reading one of them. Books have become my job, and no matter how much I enjoy my work, I know that there will be more good stuff coming my way soon. So when I simply cannot close the book, that tells me one thing for certain: it’s going to get a starred review.
I will say that Blood Trail isn’t quite as good as the last Pickett, Free Fire, or my favorite, Out of Range, but given that Box is now on the two-books-a-year plan (“amateur,” scoff Ken Bruen and Walter Mosley), it’s remarkable how close he is to those benchmarks. Box’s other book out this year was the terrific Blue Heaven (St. Martin’s/Minotaur), which I approached with some trepidation only because it seemed to signal an effort to make the Wyoming author more mainstream (they photographed him without his cowboy hat, for example). But that was a needless worry. Box has proved that he can branch out with stand-alone thrillers while keeping his large core audience (Pickettheads? Romanowskians? Boxovites?) happy.
Come to think of it, my only quibble with Blood Trail is probably that it’s a bit shorter than usual–in which case, I shouldn’t be complaining. Because then I’d really be short of sleep.