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by CJ Box
Putnam, February 2022
378 pages
ISBN: 0593331346

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As do most of C.J. Box' Joe Pickett books, this book starts with a bang. Sheridan (Joe's daughter) Pickett's soon-to-be fiancé is fly-fishing, contemplating the happy moment when he presents Sheridan with a ring later that day, when a bear runs into the river and attacks. The scene is finely set, with the shock of the attack resonating through the moment as well as throughout the state. Joe and what seems like all of Wyoming law enforcement cannot find the bear that, after the first attack, appears to transport itself over impossible mileage to make similar kills from one end of the state to another.

On the same day, Dallas Cates, is released from prison with revenge on his mind. His list of those who have wronged him and must pay is topped by Joe Pickett and Nate Romanowski, Joe's friend and ally. The book moves back and forth between the two events, following Joe's search for the bear and Dallas' search for Joe. How these two stories inter-relate is made clear to the reader, although not to Joe. For most of the book, the reader desperately wants Joe to figure out what is actually happening, even though it seems nearly impossible that he will be able to do so. The combination of Joe's wife, Marybeth's, work researching behind the scenes, Nate's very unconventional thought processes, and Joe's diligence do, in the end, bring clarity to the situation.

However, and I believe this is one of the shortcomings of the book, there are many loose ends left for the next book, with Joe even saying something along the lines of, “and that is a story to be continued.” Box often leaves a plotline here and there to be picked up in a later book in the series, but not usually so blatantly. This time around, the 24th book in the series, the author seems intent on leaving a cliffhanger to entice us to read the next book. For a writer as strong as Box, this felt unnecessary and over-the-top. Those of us who follow the series will be waiting for the next without such a device, and I would have been happier to have more of a resolution at the end of THREE-INCH TEETH.

Box' writing about the landscape of Wyoming is transportative, especially when he takes us deep into the forest and describes the remote isolation that still exists in the state. The characterization is consistent with what those readers who have been following the series would expect, but it is not deeply developed between the covers of this book. Readers who enjoy plot- and action-based mysteries and are new to the series will be able to jump right into this book. However, for those who like a good dose of character-based content in their mysteries, I would suggest starting with an earlier book in the series.

With or without the loose ends that Box left for us in this book, I am very much looking forward to the continuation of Joe Pickett's story in the next book of the series.

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

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, March 2022

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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