4 stars out of 5
Depending on the source, this is either the 13th or 14th in the author's series featuring Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett, and I've read them all. As I've mentioned before, I started reading these books because of a special "connection" - Pickett is my family name. I've kept reading them, though, just because they're very good.
This one begins as Joe, who's officially still a game warden but unofficially assigned to handle special projects for the state governor, is given the task of finding out what's happening at a huge ranch in a remote area of the Black Hills. The owner, Wolfgang Templeton, is known as a philanthropist but also is powerful and mysterious. And, he's surrounded by dangerous men, not the least of whom is Joe's old friend Nate Romanowski, a falconer who's been living off the grid for quite some time. Meantime, Joe's daughter Sheridan, a resident assistant at the college she attends, is dealing with a potentially dangerous student, causing concern for Joe and his wife Marybeth.
When he starts checking out Templeton and his property, Joe quickly learns the man literally owns everyone in the county - including local law enforcement and quite possibly old friend Nate as well. Has Nate crossed over to the dark side? Will Joe make it out of this wilderness alive once it becomes clear why he's really there? Can he get to his daughter before she becomes the victim of a sniper?
The way these questions are answered, in fact, are why I gave this book 4 stars instead of 5. Although everything moves along very quickly and it was hard to put the book down, parts of the plot - especially near the end - are more than a little contrived and hard to believe (an effort to set up the plot of the next installment, perhaps, or, as other reviewers have suggested, a rush to meet the publication deadline)? Still, it's a worthwhile read - just not the best of the lot.
Stone Cold by C.J. Box (Putnam Adult, March 2014); 374 pp.