A grizzly attack causes game warden Joe Picket to leave his district and join members of the Predator Attack Team. Joe has suspicions about the attack but is called away before being able to investigate further. A shooter targets a local judge, seriously wounding the judge's wife. The shot came from an extremely long-range, and Joe's best friend Nate Romanowski is suspected. This leaves Joe to find the killer, clear his friend, and uncover the answer to the bear attack.
Talk about a hook! Box sets the scene well, contrasting the beauty of the location with the cold, hard terror of a lethal element coming from through the air so that one experiences the horror of when the two elements combine. The suspense continues once we join Joe.
Reading Box is both exciting, and an education in everything from grizzly bears, the technology that enables a cell phone to be tracked even in a no-service area, an air force of predator birds, and long-range rifles. Box explains each of these in a way that is fascinating even to urban dwellers, and each has an important role to play in the plot. There is a nice piece of information regarding the role of a Wyoming game warden which helps explain Joe's involvement in the shooting investigation.
The characters are alive. Some are those series readers have met before. Some carry over from a previous book, but in a way that their backstory is apparent and their incorporation into the present story handled seamlessly. There are good guys; bad guys, and those about whom we are uncertain, which adds to the suspense.
Joe is compelling, refreshing for his imperfections—not the best on horseback, not the finest shot, has a penchant for destroying his county vehicle--and has phobias, particularly his fear of flying. Marybeth, his wife, is a true partner both in their marriage and due to her position as director of the county library, which can aid in Joe's investigation. The personal side of Joe and his wife's struggle being empty nesters personalizes and humanizes them.
One of the characters who has developed and changed most in the series is Nate Romanowski. The suspense and excitement always escalate whenever Nate appears. The friendship between Nate and Joe is admirable. When you combine the two men in a scene, non-stop action ensues.
It is not all action, however. While not overtly political, the story does connect to present events—" It was a new political world, Joe had learned. Politicians who were snared in scandal didn't fight back or resign in shame, because there was no personal shame."
One may identify one of the villains quite early, others are less obvious, and one whose appearance may cause series readers to roll their eyes in dismay. Box's wry humor is always a pleasure and "Pickett's charge" a definite high point.
"Long Range" has an exciting, dramatic climax followed by a wonderful ending making one feel it was over all too soon.
LONG RANGE (GameWard-Joe Pickett/Mate Romanowzki-Wyoming-Cont) - VG+
Box, C.J. -20th in series
G.P. Putnam's Sons - Mar 2020