Paradise Valley by C.J. Box (Minotaur Books, 352 pages, $27.99)

Two more authors to cross off the list

Over the years that I have been reviewing books for this newspaper and interviewing authors on the radio, I have been compiling a list of writers. It has become a long one. I’m always adding names. And I’m crossing others off.

If I intend to read a writer’s work for the first time I’ll add his or her name. After I read a book by an author on the list, I’ll cross the name off. This week I read books by authors who had spent years on my wish list. I’ve finally checked them off.

“Paradise Valley” by C.J. Box (Minotaur Books, 352 pages, $27.99)

C.J. Box published his first book in a series featuring his Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett in July 2001. While he is best known for the Pickett books, a few years ago he started another series that features an investigator named Cassie Dewell.

As “Paradise Valley,” the third book in the series, begins Cassie is working as the Chief Investigator for Sheriff Kirkbride in Grimstad, the county seat of Bakken County, North Dakota. Cassie has been in pursuit of a serial killer known as the “Lizard King.” He’s a long-distance truck driver who preys on women he picks up at truck stops.

While Cassie is hoping to finally apprehend this murderous menace, two local youths are running away from home. They have just set out in a boat on the river. Soon after that they vanish. On the same day that the boys run off, there’s a massive explosion nearby. It appears that the “Lizard King” might have caused the blast and now Cassie bears the blame for this. C.J. Box deftly ties all those story lines together.

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“Deadfall” by Linda Fairstein (Dutton, 385 pages, $28).

Linda Fairstein spent years as the head of the Sex Crimes Unit for the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. In 1996 she started publishing a series of crime novels that feature a prosecutor in Manhattan named Alexandra Cooper. Her most recent one, the 19th, is “Deadfall.”

Over the course of these novels, Cooper has only aged a few years. As this one opens, the District Attorney was just murdered in a public place. As he was dying, he toppled on to Alexandra. Now she’s one of the suspects in his murder case.

There’s a part of this book that is so ridiculous I could not stop laughing. Alex and her boyfriend are leaving a restaurant. As they are about to get into their car a bicyclist flies past them, startling them.

Another bicyclist comes hurtling out of the darkness and flings a Molotov cocktail at their car. It explodes. As I perused this passage, I tried to picture a bicyclist moving at top speed with no lights on while gripping this incendiary device in one hand and lighting it with the other hand-in the wind-then tossing it with deadly accuracy at their car. He would have required 3 hands. At least.

Linda Fairstein is highly respected in the genre. Her editor could have suggested ways to make that portion more believable. It contained a crucial clue to this otherwise compelling mystery. That laughable sequence tossed me over the handlebars of my mind. Imagination slightly bruised, I climbed back on and rode the story away.

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