Joe Pickett Series, No 12
G.P. Putnam’s Sons
2011/ ISBN 9780399157356
Licensed Investigator / Wyoming /Contemporary
by L J Roberts
First Sentence: He set out after breakfast on what would be
his last day on earth.
Wyoming game warden, Joe Pickett, makes the very grim discovery
of his mother-in-law, Missy’s, newest husband shot in the
chest and his body being circulated likea whirligig toy from the
blade of an electricity windmill. Missy is arrested for murder and
asks Joe to help prove she is innocent. In spite of his dislike
for her, he agrees due to his wife and daughters. Joe’s friend,
Nate, has his own battles to fight after his lover is mistakenly
killed in his place and revenge is his goal.
It is unfortunate that the book begins with a portent which is
not only completely unnecessary, but reduces the impact and suspense
of the first chapter. Fortunately, we quickly move on to detailed
descriptions creating a strong sense of place and an intriguing
contrast of nature versus technology as well as a strong sense of
the man being described.
Box creates his characters well, providing a backstory on each
one to introduce them to new readers and reacquaint those who follow
Although Box’s secondary characters tend to be a bit stereotypical,
he makes us realize that stereotypes exist because they real. These
characters are nicely offset with Joe who is a man who believes
in the letter of the law. However, Joe is not perfect and neither
is his family which has normal family issues and problems. Joe believes
in the truth, but there is an element of cynicism and mistrust which
keeps him real.
His characters are enhanced by the dialogue which has good flow
and distinction for each character. Box’s Wyoming Governor
provides examples of this…”I need more yes-men,”
he said. “I deserve more yes-men.” He grinned, “And
fewer independent thinkers like you.
Hell, I’m the governor.”… and later… Rulon
said, …”What a way to go. I hope it doesn’t start
a trend.” “Too much work,” Joe said. “Most
criminals don’t want to work that hard.”
Box writes action sequences with plenty of tension and suspense
which include the emotions associated with the events. In fact,
the more impactful crime is one without violence and is based on
current events. Still, I did enjoy the point where Joe’s friend,
Nate, talks about the situation getting very Western. There are
nice twisty motives and plenty of possible suspects.
The story is relevant as it involves the present economic recession,
moving to sustainable energy sources and government subsidies, but
not in a way that will age the book in the future. In fact, the
some of those factors represent the story’s more upsetting
crimes. There are some minor flaws; some of the legal elements seemed
off to me and the final revelation was not completely unexpected.
One of the story threads probably could have been omitted but it
added balance to the story and keeps it from becoming too political.
“Cold Wind” is a very good balance of all those elements
one looks for in a mystery but not in any way that seems formulaic.
No; Mr. Box just know how to tell one really good story and, once
again, caused me to stay up way too late to finish it.
of other titles in this series
Fired (Short Stories)
Stone Cold #14 [review