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New C.J. Box novel will keep readers guessing


Writing a review of C.J. Box’s newest Joe Pickett novel, “Storm Watch,” is a little déjà vu in the middle of our own winter storm.

As this 23rd Pickett novel opens in March, Joe is attempting to find and put down an injured elk before the incoming blizzard catches him. Following the instincts of his trusty lab, Daisy, he is successful. But not before making a gruesome discovery on the Double D ranch.

Joe discovers an SUV with a University of Wyoming sticker and human tracks leading away from the vehicle. Despite the danger of the blizzard, he can’t resist trying to find whoever is out there and might need help. It is part of his ingrained moral code, which makes his character so appealing to readers. Following the tracks, he begins to hear a loud and disturbing noise. When he gets close, he discovers a metal building in the middle of nowhere with the body of a man, stuck in a vent. Realizing he can do nothing to help, he takes pictures and the man’s wallet and returns through thigh-high snow to his truck.

As soon as possible, Joe reports his discovery to the local sheriff, who is suffering from short-timers disease, as he is retiring soon. When he reluctantly sends deputies to the location the next day, they find no body and an empty, quiet building. That very same morning, Joe is summoned to the capitol to a brief meeting with the governor, who commands him to stand down. Joe figures the governor knows something more and doesn’t want anything to interfere with his running for reelection. Anyone who knows anything about Joe knows two things: He won’t back down and he will do the right thing, which is why some call him “Dudley Do Right.”

Meanwhile, Joe gets a lead on some actual game warden business. Apparently, some local players are jumping the gun and the season by shed hunting. They are using inhumane tactics to gather valuable elk antlers by herding the elk into tight, forested areas where the branches rip the loose racks from their heads. This stresses the animals and can weaken them so they don’t survive the rest of the winter. Joe and the local judge are hot to lock up the perps.

While Joe is involved elsewhere, his longtime friend Nate Romanowski is looking to expand his bird abatement business, Yarak Inc. Joe’s oldest daughter, Sheridan, works with Nate and is becoming a master falconer. Yarak uses falcons to rid businesses of problem bird infestations. The business is growing, and a fellow falconer, Geronimo, has a plan for getting money for expanding and to become Nate’s partner.

Buy the book

C.J. Box’s new novel, “Storm Watch,” is available for preorder through Maria’s Bookshop. It will be released Feb. 28.

For more information, visit https://bit.ly/3KBDyv1.

Geronimo’s idea involves making use of bitcoin mines. He tells Nate about this enterprise that would use a mini pod building on Nate’s land to become a part of the recent cryptocurrency trend that would be good for the environment and their wallets. Before Nate can get behind this project, he is approached by a member of the “Sovereign Nation” who wants Nate to join the cause. These are people against the federal government and want to “take back their way of life.” They need a man like Nate to help them, especially with an upcoming plan.

Box has created a complex, engrossing mystery and weaves the seemingly disparate threads into a powerful multilayered plot that keeps the reader guessing until the last page. As usual, he makes excellent use of his setting, which becomes an important element in the action. Unlike some other novel series, Box has formed a cast of characters that are family. Joe and Nate have spouses and children who take part in the action. Box also brings to his work the American West at its best, keeping the traditional culture and values while trying negotiate the evolving New West. “Storm Watch” is a compelling and entertaining must read while cozy at home.

Leslie Doran is a retired teacher, freelance writer and former New Mexican who claims Durango as her forever home.