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by C.J. Box
G.P.Putnam's Sons, February 2023
368 pages
ISBN: 0593331303

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

A Wyoming snowstorm is a storm like no other. Wind conditions blow the snow into a curtain that obscures just about everything, the roads become so hazardous that trucks tip over, and you certainly don't want to get caught unprepared outside. CJ Box describes several storms and their consequences so well that you might want to read this book in front of a fire.

Joe Pickett, the game warden around whom this series is built, is out on a simple task to find and euthanize an injured elk when the first storm of the book hits. He finds the elk, but he also finds an unexpected fatal situation on the ranch where the elk disappeared. What follows is a wild ride that includes radical insurrectionists, bitcoin mining, and political malfeasance. The book is stuffed full with reprobates from all walks of life, and Joe finds himself fighting them as well as the weather. There is some game warden business included, but it's not the major theme in this book and serves more to support the political message than as a plot of its own.

Nate Romanowski plays a large role in the book, as he has in the last few of the Joe Pickett series, and this has an impact on the violence level of the book. When Nate is involved, there is going to be much shooting going on and many killings. The direction that Nate's prominence in the plots has taken the series will either appeal to the reader, or not. For me, I prefer the earlier works that focused on Joe's work in the Wyoming wilderness and the wildlife that he encountered. I do appreciate the way that Box has brought technology into play in recent books, however, and I always start a new book wondering how he'll incorporate something new. Joe is relying more and more on his wife's researching capabilities and his daughter's support, making his investigations more of a family affair. The decidedly Western outlook of the books has not changed as Box continues to write beautifully about Wyoming.

This was a very fast read, especially as the action picks up in the latter half. Box does not beat the reader over the head with the plans that Joe follows, but rather makes it clear that there is a plan and then jumps into action mode to immerse the reader in the execution of the plan. This means that some pieces don't fit tightly together which, again, may be to the reader's liking, or not. In the end, the plot lines come together satisfyingly, if not a bit unbelievably.

This is the 23rd book in the series. It can be read as a standalone, with the plot fully developed between its covers. However, knowledge of the characters and events from previous books will help provide context for some of the action. I'm interested to see where Box takes us in Pickett's 24th outing.

Sharon Mensing, retired educational leader, lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors in Arizona.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, January 2023

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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