The Disappeared by C.J. Box
This is number 18 in the mostly impressive Joe Pickett series, which deals with the trials and tribulations of the Wyoming game warden. Pickett is an every-man. He has a family of three daughters and a loving and understanding wife. Unfortunately, he also has a mother-in-law from hell. As we said, every-man.
In The Disappeared, Joe is ordered by the new governor of Wyoming to investigate the disappearance of a famous English celebrity agent who has vanished after spending time on a ranch resort. The Brit apparently enjoyed her time there where she met Joe’s eldest daughter, Sheridan, herself taking time out from education having graduated recently from college. Yet, no one has seen the celeb since she left for the airport. Her rental car has also gone.
Wyoming Governor, Colter Allen, is getting grief from the British Ambassador as to the whereabouts of the celebrity and Allen has decided to involve Pickett in the search for the missing woman. Unfortunately for Joe, Allen’s motives may not be what they seem as it’s known he has no love for our favourite game warden. Apparently Colter has an issue with Joe’s friendship with the previous governor. Together with his aide, Conor Hanlon (who is most definitely not Irish) Colter appears to be plotting something nasty which will certainly not be in Joe’s favour.
The mystery of what’s going on in Saratoga, where the English woman disappeared, is compounded by the additional absence of the local game warden for the area, Steve Pollack. Joe is baffled as to why Pollock has gone walk-about with no word to his employers as to the reason. The governor seems to want Joe to stay away from that particular case but Joe was never one to do what he was told, especially if it meant obeying a person who obviously detests him.
As Pickett digs, Sheridan wonders how to tell him that she is seeing a young cowboy who works on the same ranch that she does. She knows that her father might not be impressed by her selection. Luckily, Joe meets her beau and takes a shine to him. Sheridan is also assisted by the fact that her dad needs her input on the case and requires information on those who come and go from the ranch.
In The Disappeared, we again get the pleasure of the company of the incorrigible Nate Romanski. Nate is a former Special Forces operative (how many are there in the USA? Every book seems to have at least one) with an obsessive love of falconry. Sheridan is his sometimes student. Nate approaches Joe with a problem. The Feds are refusing permits for falconers to hunt with eagles and no one seems to know why. It’s one more thing for the overwhelmed Joe to look into. Thankfully, he now has Nate’s help, a man whose practices are not always the most orthodox. Nate ends up interrogating a drug dealer that he just shot, slapping him around the head with a trout. This is normal for Mr Romanski. Rebel Voice wonders if they teach that at Special Forces school.
As usual in a C.J. Box novel, the threads are all of interest and begin to weave together nicely. The disappearance of the English woman, the absent Pollack, the issue with the eagles and the behaviour of a wind energy company that is investing heavily in the area, are all revealed as being linked. Of course, the corrupt and immoral Governor Allen is also up to his brass neck in it. Will our hero from the ordinary seven eights triumph?
This is a very fine read. Most of Box‘s books are. The settings for the Joe Pickett series are sensational. Wild and rough country sparsely populated by the off-centre people who enjoy living there. The character list is impressive as is the depiction of each. The personalities are full and complement each other perfectly. Importantly, the people portrayed are believable, even Nate Romanski. They are also consistent. Joe Pickett is an eminently likable character and the dynamic between him and his daughter, and wife, is solid. The relationship between Joe and Nate is somewhat more complex and fluid. Nate is a rogue operative and Joe is a by-the-book kind of guy. Yet when Nate goes completely maverick, Joe tolerates it in a ‘good ol boy’ kinda way. It’s believable but perhaps a tad awkward. Joe is portrayed as fairly straight-laced, so Nate is not his normal type of companion or friend. Perhaps their dynamic could use a little work for greater credibility.
All-in-all, The Disappeared is one to read, especially if you happen to be a fan of the great outdoors. It has all the essential characteristics of a great novel. We are drawn into the mysteries with grace and skill and entertained by the clever plot and dialogue. The ending is strong and sets things up nicely for the next instalment of what is one of the best series around. This Joe Pickett story-line will offend no one but should hook all who give it a chance.
Sult scale rating: 8 out of 10. This book is recommended by Rebel Voice, as are almost all the other episodes in the life of Joe Pickett. Although a series is best read in order, this one can be entered at any point without compromising your enjoyment of future visits. Give it a go.
For another (more dubious) C.J. Box review, clink on the link: