Putnam, May 2008, $24.95
Joe Pickett loved being the game warden of the Saddlestring District, but he was fired by Randy Pope, the Wyoming State Director. Now he is a troubleshooter for the governor and a substitute for game wardens throughout the state who are ill or on vacation. Currently it is elk hunting season; one of the hunters has been killed, skinned, and found tied upside down to a tree branch missing his head.
The governor wants Joe to find the perpetrator before he is forced to close state lands from hunters and ask the Feds to do likewise. Unlike his usual on the job distant professionalism, Pope is hands on leading the investigation. When they go into the woods tracking the killer, he is missing though his friend is there as back-up. The tracker is killed. At about the same time shots are fired and Randy’s friend dies. Activist Klamath Moore, some feds feels terrorist is more descriptive, and his wife Shannon arrive in town stirring up those people against hunting because he believes killing animals for sports is ethically apprehensible. Joe begins to figure out what is going on when he gets his friend Nate released from federal custody but he doesn’t want to believe where the evidence points. .
The Joe Pickett police procedurals are unique action-packed thrillers starring a hero who thinks outside of the box, which is why he lost his job. The villain is multifaceted as he is leaving a message behind for hunters who will NRA the killer with disdain and readers who will feel sorry for that person. However, this is Joe’s series and he is determined to bring justice to the killer knowing that this time it will hurt badly as he sympathizes with the culprit and believes he may know the person. Using a secondary character, C .J. Box also warns the audience that the natural beauty of the parks are in jeopardy by those whose strategic planning is less than fifteen minutes as instant satisfaction is all that matters.