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Cold Wind
Joe Pickett Series, No 12
C.J Box

G.P. Putnam’s Sons
2011/ ISBN 9780399157356
Licensed Investigator / Wyoming /Contemporary

Reviewed 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 the series.

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.

Reviews of other titles in this series

Trophy Hunt #4
Cold Wind #12
Shots Fired   (Short Stories)
Stone Cold #14 [review 1] [review 2]
Endangered #15[review 1] [review 2]
Vicious Circle #16
Off The Grid #17

Reviewed 2011