Featured Review: ‘The Bitterroots’ by C.J. Box

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The BitterrootsAfter already releasing one stellar novel this year (Wolf Pack, the 19th book in his #1 New York Times bestselling Joe Pickett series), C.J. Box delivers another stunning, must-read thriller following one the genre’s best heroines. 

Following the events of Paradise Valley (2017), former police officer Cassie Dewell has left North Dakota in the review mirror and set up shop in Bozeman, Montana. Now working as a private detective, Cassie struggles to find work as she embraces her newfound career—forcing her to take whatever business she can find, most of which comes from one of her dear friends, attorney Rachel Mitchell. 

Following an exhausting stakeout in Big Timber, Cassie wants nothing more than to dial it back and spend time her son, Ben, now a teenager, when Mitchell calls with a new job. One of her clients, Blake Kleinsasser, stands accused of raping his fifteen-year-old niece, Franny Porché, and the lawyer wants Cassie to look into the claims and follow the evidence wherever it may lead—even if it ultimately leads to a guilty verdict, which is important to Cassie, who has spent the bulk of her adult life trying to put bad men behind bars and has zero interest in switching sides and helping them walk free. 

Reluctantly, Cassie takes the job and quickly learns that the bulk of the evidence—including DNA and a sworn statement from Franny—doesn’t look good for Blake. On top of that is Blake’s own admission that he was so drunk on the night in question, that the rancher has no idea what he did or didn’t do. Still, being the thorough investigator that she is, Cassie begins speaking with a number of locals, members of Blake’s family, and Lochsa County Sheriff Ben Wagy. What she finds is a web full of deceit and corruption waiting for her at every turn.

The Kleinsasser family, she realizes, has considerably more power than she could have guessed, and the more Cassie looks into Blake’s family—including his siblings John Wayne, Rand, and Franny’s mother, Cheyenne—the more dangerous things become for her . . . 

Though the crime thriller genre is full of talented writers, nobody does it quite like C.J. Box, who remains one of the elite storytellers alive today. As his fans have come to expect, The Bitterroots has plenty of twists and turns, as Box again shows his ability to keep readers guessing right up until the very end. That is absolutely the case here, as Cassie finds herself in all kinds of trouble, leading to an exciting final act that’s impossible to put down. Box’s pacing is on point and, as always, he manages to make the setting—in this case, Montana—come to life in an intricate way that makes Bozeman feel more like a supporting character than just the story’s location. 

From the moment she was first introduced to readers in The Highway (2013), Cassie Dewell has been a fan favorite, and Box has developed her brilliantly over the course of four novels, turning her into one of the best female protagonists the genre has to offer. While there are some similarities between Cassie and Joe Pickett, mainly their work ethics and willingness to see a job through to the very end no matter where it leads, Dewell is unique, and her personality is much different than Box’s Wyoming beloved game warden. The same too can be said about the feel of the two series in general, with Dewell’s books a tad darker and grittier—while also featuring some of the most terrifying villains Box has ever created.  

Expertly plotted and filled with nonstop suspense, The Bitterroots is another stunner from C.J. Box, and a clear favorite for top crime thriller of the year. 

Book Details

Author: C.J. Box
Series: Cassie Dewell #4
Pages: 320 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1250051053
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Release Date: August 13, 2019
Book Spy Rating: 9.5/10

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Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.

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