‘Endangered,’ C. J. Box’s new crime novel, gripping

“Endangered” by award-winning, bestselling author C. J. Box (Viking, $26.99) is the latest compelling crime novel starring Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett.

It’s the 15th book in the exceptionally popular series that’s full of strong, well-developed characters, including assorted Pickett family members and his isolationist friend, falconer Nate Romanowski.

As usual, there are carefully crafted, developing plot lines; this time, the main focus is on April, Pickett’s 18-year-old ward/third daughter, who had disappeared.

When she’s discovered, naked, beaten and near-death, dumped by the side of a rural road, Pickett goes all out to track down leads.

April had run off with Dallas Cates, a rodeo champion, but he’s got a great alibi; he’s been stomped by a bull. Another likely suspect emerges, an angry survivalist with a long record.

Pickett had been working on a case involving the decimation of 21 sage grouse, an odd bird type close to being put on the endangered species list.

Romanowski is still in jail, but has worked out a deal with the FBI after disclosing useful information about his former murderous employer. He’s on a very short leash; serious life-threatening situations develop.

The plot gets considerably more complicated when Pickett checks out the Cates family and their son’s alibi; they’re a devious, nasty bunch with clever plans and ulterior motives.

The different plot elements all come together in a pair of decisive violent encounters. There are many plot twists and surprises, which is typical for Box, a masterful storyteller and stylist.

The author deftly increases the tension by ending each chapter with a miniature cliff-hanger. The reader is put in the enviable position of not wanting to do anything else but continue reading, trying to figure out how Pickett’s going to solve this one.

It’s great entertainment if you want get fully absorbed in a novel or have nothing else important to accomplish.

Box is one of America’s best crime novelists and certainly doesn’t disappoint his readers. Newcomers can enjoy “Endangered” as a stand-alone novel while long-time fans who have watched the Pickett saga develop are also destined to be pleased.

“Shots Fired”, an excellent collection of short stories by Box, (including four that showcase Joe Pickett) is scheduled for paperback release in May.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime novels and Michigan books regularly since 1987.