Wolf Pack by C.J. Box (2019)
That Wyoming game warden most beloved of Rebel Voice, Joe Pickett, is back in yet another thrilling adventure as he tangles with a crew of hired killers who have found their gory way to his part of the Bighorn mountain range. Spoilers abound.
The warden area next to Joe’s is run by Katelyn Hamm, a straight flyer with Joe’s respect. When Katelyn sees a drone operator spooking deer to their death, she’s outraged. As she tries to track the culprit, he/she takes off over the mountains in the direction of Twelve Sleep County and Joe Pickett.
Joe is understandably angered at the senseless loss of wildlife and promises to help Katelyn in any way he can. His investigations lead him to a residential compound where East-coasters now live. They’re not a friendly lot. In fact, they’re downright rude to Joe when he calls and he gets no information. Matters are complicated when Joe discovers that his youngest daughter,Lucy, is stepping out with Justin, son of one of the resident bigmouths.
As Joe digs deeper, accompanied by Katelyn, they find themselves the target of some unwelcome attention from FBI hard-cases who try to persuade the pair, separately, that they should drop the investigation. As wary as Joe is in going head-to-head with the Feebs, he doesn’t like to be threatened and is more resolute than ever to find out just what the hell is going on.
To this end, he enlists the help of Nate Romanowski, an ex-special forces (just how many are there in the US, must be every other person) with a business in falconry and pest control. Nate has settled for the first time in his life and finds himself about to become a dad; big changes for the meanest honourable hombre this side of the Pecos. Nate uses his falcons to take down the drone the next time Katelyn sees it. The debris brings Joe again to the compound of the outsiders.
Meanwhile, in Scottsdale, Arizona, a man and his wife are having the worst time of their lives. It’s also the last time of their lives as they encounter a supposedly mythical crew of contract killers known as the Wolf Pack. This sociopathic gang have been working for the Mexican cartels for some time now, and have established themselves as the foremost team of killers on the continent. Many believe them to be a legend only, but Tim and Karen Kelleher know different as the crew go to work on them and their visitor, Swole, who just happens to reside in Twelve Sleep County in a compound owned by East Coasters with a distaste for law enforcement and a love of drones.
Abriella is a very beautiful young Mexican woman, violated as a teenager, and now perhaps the most dangerous of the Wolf Pack. She is assisted in her deprivations by Peter, Ademo and Cesar, all Hispanics. Peter is ostensibly the leader but Abriella is such a prima dona as to effectively dictate proceedings. She’s also a favourite of the cartel that currently employs them. Peter has his work cut out for him trying to keep her happy and her ambition is a constant danger to him.
Things in Twelve Sleep start to really heat up when the Wolf Pack eventually make their way there in search of their latest targets, the residents of the compound who are giving Joe so much grief. He discovers that the men in the compound, including the father and grandfather of Justin, are former gangsters who have turned state witnesses against the cartel. There is a very large bounty on their heads and the Wolf Pack don’t care who dies in the process. Live is cheap when dealing with the enemies of the Cartel.
Cue mayhem and destruction as only seen in Twelve Sleep County as Joe, Nate and their friends go up against killers with neither scruples, morality, nor hesitation in taking innocent life. It’s a frigging bloodbath.
Wolf Pack is the latest in what is one of the best series currently out there, and a favourite with Rebel Voice. The settings for this saga are always impressive and Rebel Voice has toyed with the idea of moving to Wyoming to live the good life with steers and horses and deer and shit, lots of shit. The manner in which C.J. Box conjures up the imagery of the place is incredible. He doesn’t overdo it. He doesn’t have to. With such a glorious setting, it’s hard to go wrong but some do. Box doesn’t. The local tourist bureau should make him their king.
Joe Pickett is a likeable everyman who happens to be a Federal employee, even though he’s not a big fan of the Feds themselves. His character is consistent throughout the books. Wolf Pack is number 19 and is as good if not better than any of the others. Nate Romanowski is a fine addition to any story-line and his journey into fatherhood adds a welcome twist to proceedings. Although all of the personalities in this story are believable, at least for the most part, questions must be asked as to the parental guidance given to Joe’s three daughters as they seem to constantly end up with guys that brings them nothing but trouble. OK, Justin seems like a nice lad, but seriously, there must be other young men who do not have fathers who were gangsters in their previous lives.
Events become heated in Twelve Sleep when the Wolf Pack decide to hit Joe, Katelyn and the FBI agents in an effort to prevent any escape of the state witness targets. It’s a weak point in this plot. But the rest is strong and the writing so good as to make such minor irritations almost forgettable. The pace is frenetic for such a rural area and the author never lets the reader catch their breath before something else happens to glue them to the pages. It’s a pretty good novel.
C.J. Box novels are never shy about killing off lots of characters and this one is no different. Sometimes, Rebel Voice wonders if certain characters need to be dispensed of to prevent bringing them into future instalments, a type of cleaning house before the next story-line. It can give a touch of imbalance to events though, but nothing extreme in this case.
If you are a person who loves the outdoors, then the Joe Pickett series is for you. If you enjoy a good action-packed thriller with solid characters, then Wolf Pack is the one you want. If you just would like to see if Rebel Voice knows its books, then this is requisite reading. For whatever reason, this is a book worth picking up and staying with until you can do nothing else but put it down, sated.
Sult scale rating: 7.5 out of 10. As usual, this episode of the Joe Pickett series will keep you enthralled from the get-go. It’s stylish, unsophisticated, rustic, wonderfully plotted and thrillingly executed. It’s a recommended read from Rebel Voice.