This novel is another in the Joe Pickett series. Joe Pickett works for the State of Wyoming as a Game and Fish officer out of Absaroka county, where he lives with his wife Marybeth and daughters April, Sheridan and Lucy. Family friend Nate Romanowski makes an appearance as does Wyoming Governor Rulon. Romanowski is a family friend, a falconer and a dangerous fellow, while Rulon both makes demands on Joe Pickett and runs interference for him.
The story opens with the discovery of a destroyed lek, or nesting flock of sage grouse. Governor Rulon sees the grouse a revenue source for Wyoming like pheasants in South Dakota and wants Joe to get to the bottom of it.
Barely into this, Joe gets a call from the hospital saying his daughter April was found beaten and unconscious and is now in a coma. In short order, Joe learns his friend Nate Romanowski has been ambushed and torn up with buckshot and is also hospitalized and undergoing surgeries to remove the shot.
The sage grouse and Mr. Romanowski become side plots sort of balanced like buckets of water over a door, waiting to avalanche into the story-line as appropriate while finding what happened to April takes priority.
April has been dating handsome bull rider Dallas Cates, and Joe’s search for Aprils assailant leads him to the Cate compound and septic service. The Cates are to say the least, a freaky bunch but adept at manipulation and put Joe off the trail briefly. As the story unfolds and April’s situation begins to resolve, Box kicks the props out from under the grouse and Romanowski story lines and they plunge into the story too.
C. J. Box is an adept writer and a grand story teller. He seldom misses an opportunity to poke recalcitrant bureaucrats for their puffery and I like that about him. Did I want to keep reading? With C. J. Box, always.