Savage Run by C.J. Box
This is book 2 in the very popular Joe Pickett series about the likeable Wyoming Game Warden, and was first published in 2002.
Pickett lives on a federal-owned homestead in the shadow of the Bighorn Mountains with his wife, Mary-Beth and three young daughters. It’s from there that he takes responsibility for ensuring federal wildlife and nature laws are enforced in Twelve Sleep County.
When Joe gets called to a bizarre scene in the local wilderness, it soon emerges that renowned environmentalist outlaw, Stewie Woods, has been blown up… by a cow. Our Game Warden is sidelined as the Sheriff’s Department and FBI take over the investigation. It’s left to Joe to notify the owner of the cow (and nine others caught in the blast) that his livestock has perished. During his house-call, Pickett becomes suspicious of the bad-natured rancher, Jim Finotta, and questions his casual response to the news that someone attached explosives to one of his cattle and destroyed 10 of them as well as killing two people.
Joe Pickett, being a cross between Daniel Boone and Sherlock Holmes, decides to investigate Mr Finotta and his circumstances, thereby bringing untold pressure on himself from the powers that be in officialdom. Matters become more complicated when Joe discovers that his loving and faithful wife was once a close personal friend and lover of Stewie Woods in their early days, and now someone claiming to be the supposedly deceased Stewie is calling her.
Running parallel to this thread, we meet aging hit-men, Charlie Tibbs, and his sidekick, John Coble. These two professional killers are moving across the US executing environmental champions at the behest of a shady cartel known as The Stockman’s Trust. This is a group of very wealthy and immoral ranchers who oppose the aims of the environmentalists. It makes for gripping reading.
As Joe moves to meet with the man claiming to be Stewie Woods, he finds himself on a collision course with the two killers who seek to finish what they now believe might have been their failed attempt to murder Woods. Joe is forced to flee the area with two unlikely companions in tow. They have no option but to turn towards a place known for its untamed ruggedness and inaccessibility, a dangerous canyon called Savage Run.
This is a great plot with fantastic imagery and settings. The characters are consistent and believable throughout. Although there’s a lot going on, it’s all perfectly paced as the story winds up to an explosive conclusion. Savage Run is a bit like white-water rafting. There are the smaller rapids to warm you up. Then we get the much enjoyed lulls allowing us to catch our breath before we are thrust into the final maelstrom of action.
Savage Run is one more top-notch thriller from C.J. Box. His stories make Rebel Voice yearn for the Bighorn Mountains and the wilderness to be found there. Pictures from National Geographic just won’t cut it. Any avid reader of thrillers should not go past these books about Joe Pickett.
Sult scale rating: 8 out of 10. Not complicated but interesting nonetheless. A thoroughly enjoyable read and highly recommended unless you fear getting horseshit on your pricey shoes.