Thriller writer C.J. Box has made a career out of Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett. “Stone Cold” brings the string of thrillers starring Pickett to 14.
In this tale, Pickett takes his orders as a special agent for Wyoming’s wily governor. A mysterious outsider has bought up a bunch of land in the state’s northeastern corner, and the governor wants Pickett to travel up there and sniff around.
Pickett discovers a bad odor in that part of Wyoming. But — as is the case in all of Pickett’s adventures — the game warden refuses to back away from danger. In heavy snow at high altitudes, Pickett plugs away at getting to the root of some questionable goings-on and the corruption of local officials.
Box lives in Wyoming and obviously loves the state — even its northeastern corner. There, as one local says, “The weather isn’t as severe as where you live, and the wind doesn’t blow like it does in Cheyenne, Casper, or Rawlins. Some people might say their mountains don’t compare to the Bighorns, the Winds, the Tetons, or the Snowy range, and they don’t. These are nice gentle mountains. You won’t fall off a cliff here or die from exposure, and we don’t have all the wolves and grizzlies that will chew your ass off. This is paradise compared to them places.”
One word of warning to readers unfamiliar with the Pickett series: Throughout “Stone Cold,” Box sprinkles references to characters and adventures from earlier volumes. Readers who haven’t read all 13 of the earlier books may find themselves at a bit of a loss.
The rest of us can thank author Box for another dandy tale — with an even dandier surprise ending.
Harry Levins of Manchester retired in 2007 as senior writer of the Post-Dispatch.