Category Archives: C.J. Box
Rating: 3.5 Water Towers
“But this is how they do it. They go after the weakest first. When the mother stays back, the wolves open a hole in her belly and pull out the entrails. Then they wait until she doesn’t have the strength to protect herself, then they’ll move in and tear her throat out.”
C.J. Box does not mince words. Nature can be brutal as well as stunningly beautiful.
Two years have passed since we last met up with Saddlestring, Wyoming Game Warden (and Wildlife Biologist), Joe Pickett and his family. In “Savage Run”, famous environmental “terrorist” Stewie Woods and his wife are blown up by a cow. Joe is called to investigate and from that auspicious start “Savage Run” builds the brutality, tension, and mystery in a thoroughly enjoyable book filled with wilderness reality.
Joe Pickett is not perfect. He has a tendency to trust people more than he should, and to go places alone where backup help would be needed. He is honest to the point of detriment to his own career (hmmm, this is a good thing really). During the investigation, Joe meets with the owner of the cow (actually 10 cows were killed in the explosion) at this person’s home. Oddly, the owner, Jim Finotta does not seem surprised nor does he ask the questions one would expect from someone who is concerned about the death of other human beings or animals. In addition, Jim, a lawyer, puts Joe on the defensive. Not a good thing to do, especially if you have the head of a large male elk mounted on your wall, that the Game Warden recognizes, and knows was killed off-season.
A mini-battle begins between dirt poor Joe and the all powerful Finotta.
Killers Charles Tibbs (the best tracker in Wyoming) and the” Old Man” leave Wyoming after ensuring that the exploding cow did what they intended (i.e. make for an embarrassing death for Stewie) for Washington State. There they murder famous environmental writer, Hayden Powell. These two are then responsible for a string of brutal environmentalist murders that follow. This has the makings of an old-fashioned range war. And the reader finds out that it is and that a group called the “Stockman’s Trust” hired the old west throwback stock detective (Charles) to take care of business.
Circumstances bring the killers, Joe Pickett, and several others together as the book climaxes with a chase through the deepest wilderness to the impassable (except by, according to legend, Cheyenne’s fleeing for their lives over 100 years ago) canyon known as Savage Run.
“Savage Run” is sometimes brutal, sometimes beautiful, sometimes controversial as it straddles the worlds of game wardens, ranchers, landowners, and environmentalists. C.J. Box is fast becoming one of my favorite authors and I am looking forward to the next Joe Pickett adventure. In the meantime, pick up “Savage Run” if for nothing else, to read the explosive ending.
Here is a web site about famous stock detective mentioned in this book, Tom Horn: http://www.tom-horn.com/
Rating: 5 Water Towers
Every now and then I read a book that I simply cannot put down. Open Season is one of those books. This is the debut novel (published in 2001) by C. J. Box and the first time I have read a C. J. Box novel. I can guarantee you….I will read more! This is one terrific book.
Joe Pickett has a pretty good life as a Game Warden in Saddlestring, Wyoming (replacing recently retired Vern Dunnegan). He has a beautiful wife, Marybeth, and two wonderful daughters, Sheridan (7) and Lucy (3), a Labrador Retriever, Maxine, and his horse Lizzie. The family lives in a State owned house that is small and, since Marybeth is pregnant, about to get smaller. His pay sucks, but, he is doing what he always wanted to do, and the family is happy and healthy.
That is about to change.
As the book opens, Joe confronts Ote Keeley who has just shot a buck out of season for, apparently, the antlers. As Joe is writing Ote a ticket, Ote grabs Joe’s gun and threatens to kill him. Joe and Ote come to an agreement that is mutually beneficial to both, that is, Joe lives and Ote keeps his outfitters license.
Fast forward a few months and Sheridan “dreams” that she saw a monster outside the house. Joe goes out to make sure everything is safe, but, as he looks around he sees a very dead Ote Keeley near the woodpile (Why did Ote come all the way to Joe’s house to die?). In Ote’s possession is an empty cooler with a few pieces of scat (poop) in it. Joe grabs the poop to send it off to Cheyenne for analysis. Luckily, he keeps some poop in an envelope in his desk as well. When the dust clears, Sheridan sees some animals in the woodpile that she and Lucy promptly name and adopt as “pets”.
The investigation into Ote’s death takes Joe and his Game Warden friend, Wacey Hedeman, and Deputy McLanahan into an area where only horses can reach. There they find three more dead bodies (friends of Ote) and a lone live person, Clyde Lidgard, who pointed his weapon at Wacey and Deputy McLanahan and was promptly shot by both. Seriously wounded a life flight helicopter (hmmm, another way to get into this area is by helicopter) takes Clyde to a hospital in Billings, MT.
Over time, Joe hears rumors about an extinct species of weasels, the Miller’s Weasel, that people have seen in the area where the murders took place. To add fuel to this rumor, the scat that Joe sent to Cheyenne was never received (except it was and an anonymous phone caller stated that to Joe), and he is being railroaded into suspension by the bureaucracy in Cheyenne.
Someone wants Joe to stop the investigation and will stop at nothing to stop Joe…even if it means killing him and his family. Does Joe stop the investigation? No.
This is an outstanding book. It shows, horrifyingly, both sides of the endangered species act and how, if an endangered species is located the government can shut down everything in the area thus destroying people’s lives. And how those people, when they find an endangered species, can make sure that species becomes extinct in a hurry.
Pick up “Open Season”, you will not be disappointed.
Here is a Wikipedia entry on the Endangered Species Act.