C.J. Box is the fourth book in the 'Joe Pickett' series of books by the same author. I came to Mr Box late, and I am still playing catch up this book having been written and published around 2004.
If you have not read any 'Joe Pickett' novels by this author I can highly recommend them to you...
Joe Pickett is a married father who is a US Game Warden in Wyoming, living on the Bighorn Road 8 miles from the town of Saddlestring with the Twelve Sleep River running through it....
As a series it has a set of characters running through it like a soap opera, Joe and his wife Marybeth. Their two girls, Sheridan and Lucy, (there was a third, who was an adopted daughter who died in a previous novel ) Sheriff Barnum, Joe's nemesis and his deputy Kyle McLanahan, Missy Vankueren, Joe's thrice married mother-in-law and on her way to No 4, Agent Portenson of the FBI posted to the wilderness of Wyoming and hating Joe for that, and finally, Nate Romanowski an ex special forces recluse.
These charachters make up the main cast of the first four novels and you will love most and despise others.
Picket is an unusual Game Warden in that instead of dealing with hunters and licenses in and out of season he keeps getting embroiled in major crimes and death, government conspiracies and tales of aliens. Mr Box is an excellent story teller in these books, he paints a picture of wide open country in one scene and then boxes you in a tree covered canyon in another. You can visualise the wide open sky's and the peacefulness of the country as described and then he throws in a dead animal or two followed by a body or two and once again Joe Picket is getting under the skin of the 28 year service of the Sheriff as he starts to investigate the murders as well as the dead animals.
While doing this we have the usual assortment of family problems with Marybeth the wife, who, as a stay at home wife has suddenly started a bookkeeping service for local businesses and Joe is coming home to empty fridges and non prepared meals, and wonders if it is all worth it.
The girls are getting older and the dynamics between mother and daughters and sisters is changing, one is nearly a teenager in this book and the other is still under 10 and all of this interaction is played out in a sharply written narrative that gets you hooked in and turning the pages.
These books are gentle reading in places and gruesome in other parts. Joe is teaching his daughters to fish on a day off when they come across a dead moose, a dead animal is nothing new to him or his girls by the nature of their lives. But you have the gentle family scene of a father with his daughters fishing and then you have a dead moose, but the moose has been surgically butchered and parts of it are missing. it appears to have been dead for a while, but strangely no other animals or birds have been feeding on the carcase so in a few short lines we have moved from a picturesque family fishing trip to a gruesome find with a conundrum, and that's what Box is good at. It doesn't sound as if it should work, this close interaction of black versus white but it does and makes for compelling reading. After the moose is found, the next find is some cattle, again they have been killed and surgically butchered and then it is moved up a gear when two bodies are also found apparently killed in the same manner as the animals, with no tracks around the animals to suggest what or who the killer or killers might be.
Twists and turns abound, a red herring or two is thrown into the mix and all this is used to good effect to keep you engaged and intrigued and turning page after page. The thing is having read the previous novels and seen a young daughter killed off you begin to realise that Box isn't afraid to take chances and kill off and hurt central characters in these books and this makes you continually wonder if Joe Picket and his family will survive to the end of each novel
Well worth checking out and a 5 out of 5 page turner