Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Dark Sky by C.J. Box

First Sentence: Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett stood on the edge of the tarmac with his hands thrust into the pockets of his parka and his gray Stetson clamped on tight against the cold wind.

Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett has been ordered by the Governor to take Steven "Steve-2" Price, a Silicon billionaire, bow-hunting for elk. While Joe is helping Steve stalk a bull elk, Earl Thomas and his sons are stalking Price intent on killing him. Joe's daughter, Sheridan, works for Nate Romanowski. In checking falcon nests, she discovers someone has been stealing and killing the birds. Nate and Sheridan learn Joe is in trouble, and immediately go to help. When Soledad, a falcon thief destroys Nate's birds and threatens his family, all bets are off.

Box's descriptions bring the locations and characters to life—"the last rays of the sun lit up the face of the rock formation and threw dark shadows into its folds and cracks. A single raven hugged the rim of the wall and flew in lazy, ever-widening circles." Where he excels is in suspense; in knowing who, but not the why. Violence comes hard and fast in the story. Seeds of distrust and suspicion are cleverly planted, and things escalate quickly as Joe is left without any communications or weapons but must protect another.

This is a two-pronged story, with the effectiveness and intensity of each being equal to the other. "Steve-2" is clearly based on Steve Jobs; the character even cites him as an idol. He exemplifies the very worst of the 1%, who created a product that enables the narcissism and bullying sadly found today. This is contrasted by the innate morality of Joe. Through Nate and Sheridan, one learns more about falcons and the illegal bird trade. It is also a thread that leads directly to the next book.

The intensity of suspense and action tend to keep one reading into the night. Although completely different, one may make a small comparison between Box and Agatha Christie in their high body count. The coming together of the three segments; Joe and Price, Nate and Sheridan, and Thomas and his sons, is cataclysmic—"Gee," she said to Nate, "I think we have enough guns along." "Bite your tongue," Nate said. One never has enough guns."-- but provides an unexpected revelation that doesn't excuse but explains how actions can lead to devastating results. Joe may now be 51, but he hasn't lost those attributes that one admires and that make him who he is.

"Dark Sky" is a wild ride of non-stop tension. It is violent, but thought-provoking as it deals with many important issues of our times. This may be Box's best book yet.

DARK SKY (LicInv-Joe Pickett-Wyoming-Contemp) - Ex
Box, C.J. – 21st in series
G.P. Putnam's Sons, Mar 2021, 349 pp.

1 comment:

  1. I've always really liked the Joe Pickett character. And Box is so good at evoking setting and at building tension, too. I'm not usually one for a lot of violence in my crime fiction, but sometimes, an author can make it work. It sounds as though Pickett does here.