First Sentence: Nate Romanoswki knew trouble was on the way when he saw the falcon’s wings suddenly flare in the distance.
Nate Romanoswki’s lover is being watched, and Nate put in a position where he must work for a covert agency of the government to destroy a terrorist cell in the United States. In return, his record will be cleared so that he and Liz can finally live without threat of Nate being imprisoned. Joe Pickett’s boss, Governor Rulon, is about to leave office but has one last assignment for Joe. Find Nate. But will they both survive?
It is a very good writer who can paint a mental picture of a scene that is both harsh and beautiful—“It was the best time of day, he thought: the anticipatory moment before the morning light lifted the curtain on the landscape to reveal the reds, pinks, orange, and beiges of the striations in the bone-dry rock formations, and revealed the rugged broken terrain.”—and C.J. Box is one of the best.
The information on the different types of predatory birds is fascinating, and later, we learn that “Not all hawks are falcons, but all falcons are hawks.” Box skillfully builds the tension and excitement very early in the story, and then throws the reader an excellent twist. It is safe to say that, at this point, we, as readers, aren’t putting this book down from here until the last page so cancel your plans, and forget about sleep.
Having the story begin with Nate and his lover, Liz, is an interesting change. Box doesn’t spend a lot of time on Nate’s, Liz’s, Pickett’s, and later Governor Rulon’s back story, yet the writing is skillful enough that, through the story, you have a very strong sense of who these people are and how they became connected. However, one of the things at which Box truly excels is creating a situation in which there is an immediate threat.
An incident with a grizzly bear is horrific, exciting and a good reminder of what can happen when man encroaches on nature. One small geographical error was rather amusing. In describing the route of Interstate 80, he had it starting in Sacramento, going to Oakland, and then back East across the country. I-80 actually begins in San Francisco, progressing East to Oakland, Sacramento, and on from there. It’s not something that would stop a reader, but it did make this reader smile.
The story does have just a touch of the paranormal in the form of premonitory dreams and mental links with animals. Rather than seeming unrealistic, these things work well within the story when one considers the characters and the location.
There are some nice moments of mild humor between Joe and his dog, Daisy, which offsets the ever-increase suspense. However, there are a couple coincidences one might have preferred not to have been, but which were necessary to make the plot work as effectively as it does.
Box is very good at raising environmental and political issues without preaching. It is more that he wants you to stop and seriously consider the issues and their impact on man and our world. He raises the point that for everyone who creates or does something for what they perceive to be the greater good, someone is looks at that same thing as an opportunity for power, profit, or destruction.
“Off the Grid" is one hell of a book. Yes, it’s exciting and suspenseful to the very last page, but it is much more than that. It is about power and government, and the people, good and bad, behind it all. And it is about how little we, the people actually know.
OFF THE GRID (Lic Invest-Joe Pickett/Nate Romanowski-Wyoming-Cont) – VG+
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2016