Reviews by L. J. Roberts

C. J. BOX – The Disappeared. Joe Pickett #18. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, hardcover, March 2018.

First Sentence:   Wylie Frye was used to smelling of smoke and that was long before he became a criminal of sorts.

   Wyoming’s new governor wants Game Warden Joe Pickett to find a wealthy Englishwoman and ad-agency CEO who disappeared after staying at the dude ranch where Joe’s daughter, Sheridan, works. Joe’s friend, master falconer Nate Romanowski, wants Joe to find out why the falconers can no longer hunt with eagles in spite of having valid permits. Joe wants to know why the Game Warden from the area where the ranch is located has also disappeared. And who is working hard to make Joe go away?

   Box is very good at creating a sense of place, and a sense of cold— “Twilight in the mountains brought a special kind of cold. It crept out from the darkness of the lodge pole pine forest where it had spent the daylight hours and it slithered across the top of the snow to sting every inch of exposed human skin. Sounds became sharper and the snow itself became a different texture that squeaked like nails on a chalkboard with every footfall.”

   His description of what it’s like to drive during the winter in the mountains conveys some of the dangers involved. And most of us don’t think about the risks inherent with snowmobiling. There is fascinating information about the use of predator birds for protecting flocks and endangered birds, as well as killing animal predators, and all the political machinations involved. The relationship of falconry to Shakespeare is a nice touch.

   The perspective Joe has on how his relationship has changed with his now-grown daughter is one with which most can identify in some way. For those who have followed the series, it is particularly poignant. The contrast of Joe and Nate is always interesting. They truly are light and dark. Lance, Sheridan’s boyfriend, is someone of whom I hope we see more.

   There’s a lot in this book, almost too much. The threads do come together but awkwardly. There isn’t the cohesion one finds in Box’s previous books, and even the humor and suspense are less apparent. The motive is rather weak and far-fetched, particularly when we learn who is behind everything, and the ending rather abrupt. One dearly hopes Box isn’t getting tired of his series.

   The Disappeared is not Box’s strongest book, but it’s still better than a very good book by other authors. There is an excellent twist, and a good “Western” ending.

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Bibliographic Note:   Box has written a book in this series every year since 2001.