There are so many reasons to recommend C. J. Box and his Joe Pickett novels it’s hard to know where to begin. Let’s start with the setting of his latest, Cold Wind: it doesn’t get much better than the majestic mountains of Wyoming. Then toss in dedicated and likeable Game Warden and family man Joe Pickett. Pickett’s home base is Saddlestring, a small mountain community of cattle ranchers and merchants and guides who cater to seasonal hunters and fishermen. That’s where Joe comes in, but he does more than issue hunting citations and mend fences. Saddlestring comes complete with petty politics, a less than engaging sheriff, a young and eager district attorney, a nearby Indian reservation, and an exclusive enclave for the rich and famous just beyond the city and sometimes the law. It’s not all bucolic; the bad guys come through as serious poachers, cattle rustlers, and flat-out murderers and their handiwork seems to occur with alarming regularity.
C. J. Box has been engaging readers since 2001 with his first Joe Pickett novel, Open Season. Ten years and eleven novels later, he’s no longer the new kid on the block. What makes Box’s mysteries so worth the read is their combination of tight, intelligent writing, with enough warmth and humor to get you past any murderous gore, cliff hanging suspense, and story lines that take you into more than the wilds of Wyoming. Cold Wind begins with murder most foul by page nine, and takes the reader into a mystery engulfed by wind power ecology and economics and dirty little family secrets. If you’ll excuse the pun, this novel will blow you away.