C.J. Box has a new fan. This is a terrific mystery, full of good, solid detective work, a likeable main character, and a great setting. Joe Pickett is a Wyoming State game warden, a bit different for a mystery leading man, and he’s as decent and wholesome as you’re ever going to find between two book covers. He’s a family man with a lovely wife and two beautiful daughters. He’s surrounded by gun-toting louts, bureaucrats, and dilettante environmentalists, among others. One of those louts turns up dead on his woodpile in the middle of the night.
I’ve had the privilege of living in Wyoming very near the fictional town where Joe lives. My grandfather was a county sheriff there and when he wasn’t sheriff he sometimes led elk hunters into the mountains, too, so this setting and story line hit very close to home. Box has the local demographic and terrain absolutely nailed. I really like that Joe is no super-hero. He’s not a good shot with a pistol, although he wields a mean shotgun. He’s good-sized if I remember right, but he doesn’t get into fist fights because he’s too laid back and peaceable. He’s a straight arrow who knows it’s his duty to enforce the game laws and the endangered species act even when he doesn’t seem to think they’re all that sensible. He’s just a nice guy who loves the mountains and is trying to do his job and support his family.
There’s enough action and suspense to keep you reading (or listening, as I did), yet there was a minimum of gore and no cursing at all that I recall. The only real criticism I have is the author’s decision to make the murderer a pedophile, too. It wasn’t consistent with anything else in the plot and we had plenty of reason to hate him already without that. I’ve seen other authors do that with their first book. Hey, we get it, he’s the bad guy, you don’t need that fondling and nasty language.
The narrator, David Chandler, was excellent.