Putnam/Penguin Random House, $27.00, 367 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-17661-6
Although our focus here at the MBR has always been finding debut authors with promising talent and an outstanding story to tell, the unvarnished truth is that there’s a few A-list writers . . . James Lee Burke, Dennis Lehane, or Michael Connelly for example who we always read and review, whenever they publish a new novel. We’re going to add the name C.J. Box to that short, illustrious list, because his Joe Pickett stories about a Wyoming Game Warden are just to damn good to miss out on. They’re timely, addressing such hot topics as the Endangered Species Act, Federal oversight—and overreach—of state land, trophy hunting, private militias and Posse Comitatus being just a few that were touched upon in his first sixteen Pickett novels. Now, in the newest tale, the past comes back to haunt him, as bad boy Dallas Cates gets out of prison and vows revenge.
Vicious Circle, by C.J. Box, finds good-guy Joe Pickett, Wyoming Game Warden badge number 20, gearing up and getting ready for his busiest time of year, the fall hunting season. It’s when there’s an influx of out of state hunters and multiple big game harvests, all at the same time. As if that’s not enough to deal with, he’s notified Dallas Cates has been paroled from the Wyoming State Penitentiary and is back in Joe’s hometown of Saddlestring, where he’s been seen in Stockman’s bar with a couple of other ex-cons, vowing to ‘get’ Joe, and his whole family. Cates is looking for revenge after Joe was instrumental in sending him to prison, killing his father and two brothers, and sending his mother to prison in a wheelchair . . . on a life sentence . . . all of which took place in Mr. Box’s last novel entitled Off The Grid. But things really start to heat up when Dave Farklus, a local barfly who was in Stockman’s on the same night as Dallas Cates and his friends, disappears and may have been hunted down and murdered . . . while Joe Pickett watched in horror from a spotter plane overhead.
With an intricate, tightly-written plot and a compelling family-oriented backstory, Vicious Circle will help you be glued to the page as Mr. Box spins the yarn to it’s conclusion with the sure hand of a master wordsmith at the peak of his powers. He’s a writer very fan of crime fiction should be on intimate terms with, as he writes some of the best western-themed novels in print today. That’s when you, like me, will be a steadfast, loyal and die-hard fan of C.J. Box!