Tell me a story

Well, I did it. I finally listened to an audiobook. I liked it so much I immediately cruised through two more in the same series.

I think these worked for me because of the way that author C.J. Box writes. He’s a straight-shooter writing straightforward stories.

It’s fun having someone read you a story! But I wonder how I’d like a book like The Searcher, with its lush descriptions of Ireland. I’m not sure if Tana French’s work would hit me the same way if I listened instead. Hmm, I see an experiment in my future…

So I’m pretty new to C.J. Box’s books, but I’m hooked.

I read / listened to the four books in the Highway series (aka the Cassie Dewell series aka the Lizard King series). (I reviewed The Highway earlier this year: )

  1. Back of Beyond is the first book in the series, and it’s a solid mystery with a little twist. The sisters, Danielle and Gracie, are also in The Highway. I read / listened to this book second, after I read The Highway.
  2. The Highway came to my attention when I saw an ad for a new ABC show called Big Sky. I found out it was based on a book and started there. In my review I said I wanted more of Cassie and apparently Box had more in mind as well. She’s in three other books (one isn’t part of this series).
  3. Badlands finds Cassie in North Dakota, trying to start anew but still on the hunt for the Lizard King.
  4. Paradise Valley completes the story in a completely satisfying way.

Four books in I realized something. At first I thought Box was a lesser writer compared to some of my more “literary” favorites, like Tana French. (Sorry C.J.) But now I know that he’s just different than what I’m used to. The no-frills storytelling – I finally realized it’s a big sky thing.

I’ve read my way around the US but somehow missed anything from Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas.  

  • NYC stories have a particular energy and a sarcastic edge (The Devil Wears Prada, Black Buck, American Psycho, Sex and the City*;
  • Los Angeles mysteries and thrillers are dark despite all the sunshine (from James M. Cain to Michael Connelly’s weary realist Harry Bosch**);
  • South Florida stories are hyper and erratic and reflect the mélange of humanity that call it home (Carl Hiaasen does it best);
  • Washington D.C. is all grit and heart in George Pelecanos’ books and his dialog is so authentic it hurts; and
  • the people of Daniel Woodrell’s Ozarks are simple but smart, with language that uses few words to say so much.

C.J. Box’s landscapes are different than any of these cities or regions. It’s funny, New Yorkers are squeezed together and on top of each other and talk a mile a minute. People in the west and the plains have room to stretch and breathe and are more measured in their speech. Wide-open spaces under a big sky: his writing and language reflect it.

In between reading these I watched the Big Sky series on the ABC app and got all jumbled up. As usual they messed things up, completely changing critical elements from the books. And the Hollywood treatment they gave to the main character? Cassie goes from 20 pounds overweight with ill-fitting clothes to a long tall supermodel-esque stunner in skinny jeans and boots. But she and partner Jenny Hoyt are the best parts of the show and I enjoyed watching them kick ass.

To sum up: C.J. Box is my new go-to – I’ve started the first book in his Joe Pickett series and I’m into it.

Audiobooks are a revelation. Relaxing and having someone read you a story feels like a decadent luxury but the reality is your next audiobook is free at your local library. Indulge yourself and your imagination.

*You knew that Sex and the City was a book first, right?

**Bosch is also an acclaimed series on Amazon. Haven’t seen it yet…

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