Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Review of Stone Cold by C.J. Box (2014, Head of Zeus)

After an undercover agent is killed in Medicine Wheel County in a remote corner of Wyoming, the governor asks game warden Joe Pickett to investigate rumours about a local millionaire who might have a sideline in high profile disappearances.  The local game warden is none too happy to see Pickett, especially when he starts to ask a few too many questions and to rub some of the locals up the wrong way.  Whatever the situation is with the millionaire, it’s apparent that law enforcement in the county has slid-off the rails.  As the weather closes, there’s no way for Pickett to leave or reinforcements to arrive, which means surviving on his own or going the same way as his predecessor.  Meanwhile, at the other end of the state, his daughter might be sharing a university residence with a very disturbed young man. 

Stone Cold is an example of a law enforcement thriller; a kind of game warden ‘mission impossible.’  The format works by taking an ordinary family guy, putting him into an extraordinary situation, then letting the game of cat and mouse begin.  If you are prepared to suspend your disbelief a few times it works pretty well.  Pickett is an interesting enough character who rarely opts for the sensible course of action, or backs down, but instead goads the opposition and then battles through.  In this, the fourteenth book in the series, the opposition is a millionaire who is running a high-class hitman-for-hire operation from his back woods ranch, who is a local philanthropist but also controls the local law enforcement though not some of his employees.  There are a number of weak plot devices throughout, including the appearance of characters from previous books, and the thread involving Pickett’s daughter is an unnecessary distraction.  That said, there’s a colourful set of characters, there’s plenty of action and tension, and the story rattles along at a fair clip.  Overall, a tale that’s difficult to take too seriously, but is still entertaining fare. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree Rob, I really liked CJ Box's earlier works, but have stopped reading him due to too many mediocore books. Paul Doiron was nominated for an Edgar last year for a book in his Maine game warden series. The series started slow but from book 3 on I've been very impressed.

Chris Enstad