Sunday, December 27, 2009

Below Zero - C. J. Box

Below Zero begins with an unassuming phone message: 'Tell Sherry April called.' But Sherry - Joe Pickett's oldest daughter, Sheridan - and the Pickett family are shaken to the core. April, Pickett's foster daughter, was killed in a horrific murder and arson spree six years prior. To Joe, it doesn't seem even remotely possible that April could have survived the massacre described in Winterkill. He was there. But Sherry starts to believe there's a chance that April is still alive; the girl on the other end of the phone is able to recall family incidents that only April could know.

Joe, however, remains suspicious, especially when he discovers that the calls have been placed from locations where serious crimes have occurred.

At the same time, an older man and a much younger girl cross the country. The man is on a mission to repent for the crimes he's committed against the environment during his lifetime. He ultimately wants to offset each incident until he not only becomes carbon neutral, but actually drops below zero - as if he's never existed. As the path of these travelers starts to intersect with the Pickett family's, the question is raised: Is this young girl April - or are Joe and his family the victims of the cruelest of hoaxes?
I was looking for X authors at Amazon for my A to Z challenge when I found this title by C.J. Box. Since I didn't find any author of interest with a name starting with an X I decided to cheat and use an author whose name ends with an X just because the book sounded interesting. I was halfway through it when I started thinking this might be a part of a series and a quick check at Fantastic Fiction told me that it is indeed book nº 9 in the Joe Pickett series. That wasn't much of a problem if not for the fact that I now want to read all of his back list!

I thought the idea behind the plot was intriguing, that someone believed dead starts text messaging her family from places where murders occur and that to solve the mystery behind her presence among the living her family, and especially her foster father,Joe Pickett, will have to solve the murders being committed to understand where they'll go next.

I must say I also liked the idea of a game warden as a main character although we don't get to see as much nature as I thought. The book deals with the some aspects of environmental activism which I found interesting and, in the particular case of one of the characters, downright scary.There are in fact two mysteries to be solved - is April really alive and texting Sherry and what is being the two men's actions. I found that the motivations of those two characters were a bit unbeliable as they were so radical, the only explanation for it was that they were both out of their minds.

But I really liked following Joe Pickett and his family in their search for the truth and I really hope Nate appears in more books because I want to know more about him too. I liked that they seemed just ordinary people, a loving family facing problems that they have to overcome. And I hope the other books include more wildlife like the first half of this story.

Grade: 4/5

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