Revisiting A Must-Read Thriller C.J. Box’s Blue Heaven

Revisiting A Must-Read Thriller: C.J. Box’s “Blue Heaven”

J.B. Stevens revisits the 2009 Best Novel Edgar Winner “Blue Heaven” by C.J. Box. that has a ticking-clock plot that spans just over forty-eight hours. 

In 2008 the paradigm shifted. Obama secured the United States Presidential election, the war in Afghanistan turned hyper-violent, and the world’s economy entered freefall- these events dominated the public consciousness. It was, basically, a dry-run for the Jumanji-esque 2020 experience.

With all of that distraction a crime fiction aficionado may not have noticed Blue Heaven by C.J. Box. If that hypothetical fan missed out on reading Blue Heaven, they should purchase it immediately, because the book was outstanding. So good that it won the 2009 Edgar Award for Best Novel.

Blue Heaven is the story of twelve year old Annie and her younger brother William. The siblings witness an execution in the remote backwoods of Idaho. The two are pursued by the killers, with the stakes rising at every turn. They make it to the ranch of Jess Rawlins, a delightfully old-school man of the land.

The assassins are a group of shady ex-LA cops who have retired to northern Idaho, the titular ”Blue Heaven”. Together Jess, Annie, and William get to the bottom of the murder.

The story features a good number of twists and surprises. The emotional connection the bibliophile develops with Annie and William is deep. The reader’s heart-strings are played like a fiddle. This book exhibits the reoccurring Edgar-winning trait of kids encountering, and defeating, adult evil.

Annie is a strong character. She is presented in the novel’s opening:

If twelve-year-old Annie Taylor had not chosen to take her little brother William fishing on that particular Friday afternoon in April during the wet North Idaho spring, she never would have seen the execution or looked straight into the eyes of the executioners. But she was angry with her mother.

The story features a good number of twists and surprises. The emotional connection the bibliophile develops with Annie and William is deep.

Jess Rawlins is Annie and William’s savior, introduced in this passage:

Jess Rawlins was tall, stiff, all sharp angles: bony elbows and knees, prominent hawk-like nose, pronounced cheek bones. The only soft thing about him, his wife Karen told him once, were his eyes and his heart, but not in a good way.

Rawlins is so entwined with his ranch that, by the end of the novel, the reader feels the same way.

Box’s descriptive language is top-shelf. I’ve never been interested in visiting Idaho, but now I want to go. Here is a good example, also from the opening pages:

Before they witnessed the killing, they were pushing through the still-wet willows near Sand Creek, wearing plastic garbage bags to keep their clothes dry.

Upturned alder leaves cupped pools of rainwater from that morning, and beaded spiderwebs sagged between branches. When the gray-black fists of storm clouds pushed across the sun, the light muted in the forest and erased the defining edges of the shadows, and the forest plunged into dispiriting murk. The ground was black, spongy in the forest and sloppy on the trail. Their shoes made sucking sounds as they slogged upstream.

In this book, C.J. Box straddles the line between western, thriller, and classic suspense masterfully. He forges a deep emotional connection between the reader and the novel’s characters.

Of the (many) Edgar Winners I’ve reviewed this isn’t the fastest, or twistiest, or darkest. However, the prose caused me to develop a deep connection to the characters. This tie led me to caring immensely about the story.

Box is among the best in the game. He is a master craftsman. I highly recommend this book.


If you’ve enjoyed review of C.J. Box’s “Blue Heaven”, you can visit Mystery Tribune’s coverage of the most notable books in crime, mystery, thriller and horror genre here.

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