Reviewed by Kristin
Joe Pickett is back.
A Wyoming game warden, Joe is used to people breaking the law in all kinds of ways. A large number of sage grouse have been killed at a site and Joe is responsible for gathering the evidence that might lead to the perpetrator. As a threatened population, sage grouse have been a hot topic in Joe’s world, and someone has wiped out the entire lek, or flock. Agents from the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are very concerned with the documentation of the kill site.
At same time, a young woman has been found in a ditch, bruised, battered and unconscious. When the sheriff of Twelve Sleep County calls, Joe immediately fears it is his adopted 18-year-old daughter April who has been running around with her hot-headed bull-rider and rodeo champion boyfriend Dallas Cates. Joe’s wife Marybeth makes it from her job at the library to the hospital quickly, and finds that it is April.
The Cates family immediately jumps to Dallas’ defense, claiming that Dallas was injured in the rodeo ring a few days before and in no way could be responsible for harming April. His mother Brenda is very controlling of her husband Eldon, and their songs Bull, Timber, and Dallas. If Momma says her precious boy Dallas didn’t do it, she will do whatever it takes to make everyone believe her.
Some of April’s belongings are also found at the compound of an anti-government, paranoid local. With a sign that says “Stay Out, Survivors will be prosecuted”, Tilden Cudmore is not exactly a welcoming neighbor. How is he connected? With April in a medically induced coma recovering from her injuries, no one can say for sure.
Nate Romanowski also puts in an appearance in this Joe Pickett story. After being in federal custody for four months, the Feds make a deal with him in order to try to reel in an even bigger fish. Nate feels tethered by the terms of his release, but events intervene and all plans go awry quickly as he leaves with his girlfriend Liv Brannon.
C.J. Box paints pictures of the great outdoors. I enjoy his books because they take me places I have never been. I can see the high winding roads that lead to an elk hunting camp. I can see the rushing rivers of a spring melt, filled with fish and fishermen. I can see the precipice where an eagle has built her nest. I may not ever climb the highest mountain or even camp under the stars, but I can always read authors like C.J. Box, Nevada Barr, Dana Stabenow and Sue Henry. This connection to the natural world around me makes me enjoy our local, not-so-wild, outdoors as well.