“Wolf Pack” by C. J. Box is the 19th novel featuring intrepid Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett. One of the best things about a Pickett adventure is that there will always be a mix of domestic drama intertwined with the current criminal intrigue.
Pickett’s wife, Marybeth, is the director of the county library and often does online research for him. They have three daughters, Sheridan, 22, April, 20, and Lucy, almost 18.
In “Wolf Pack,” a reader may pick up the book expecting to read about a group of roving wolves causing harm to one of the many animals Pickett is duty-bound to protect. But not this time. This time, it’s humans from the South who are the roving, deadly hunters.
This adventure in Wyoming begins in April, when fellow game warden Katelyn Hamm witnesses an expensive drone harassing herds of deer and elk, causing dozens to be injured and even killed. When Hamm contacts Pickett, the two join forces. Because the carnage took place in her territory, but it appears that the pilot comes from Pickett’s district, it is only natural they work together.
As the game wardens try to pursue their case, strange obstacles rear up to thwart their investigation, mainly agents from the federal government. Meanwhile, Pickett’s close friend Nate Romanowski, a falconer and a man with a clouded past, observes four strange visitors in the area who look out of place. The actions of this group makes alarms go off, and Romanowski shares his concerns with Pickett.
The appearance of Romanowski is welcome in “Wolf Pack.” His is a complex and sometimes unsettling personage. It is fascinating to watch his character evolve and grow. Romanowski has a new love and a new, legitimate business. Liz, from the Deep South, met him in a previous book and is now his partner in both business and life. They run a business called Yarak, Inc., which uses falcons to help farmers, ranchers and businesses deal with problem birds.
On the home front, Pickett’s youngest daughter is seeing a young man whose father and friends seem like ducks out of water in the wilds of Wyoming. Even though the boy seems to treat Lucy with respect and care, his father acts superior and above the law.
As Pickett continues to dig into this man’s past and connections, a web of government overreach, misuse of technology and the intrusion of a Mexican drug cartel with its deadly trade into the quiet corners of rural Wyoming come together to cause the worst violence ever experienced in Ten Sleep County. This threat from the outside puts everyone Pickett treasures in harm’s way.
Box, as is his practice, also weaves into the story another issue facing the modern West. In “Wolf Pack,” it is the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone. While there are many positives from this action, there are always the unintended consequences. For instance, wolves know nothing about park boundaries, or what prey they are allowed to hunt.
Box pulls off the writers’ trifecta by delivering great characters (even the villains), a riveting plot and descriptions of Wyoming. “Wolf Pack” delivers thrilling, fast-paced action and shocking violence unlike previous Pickett novels. Box also manages to deliver justice by using the harsh and sometimes unforgiving nature of the “wild” West. Readers should be riveted by this latest Pickett adventure and look forward to his next Wyoming outing.
Leslie Doran is a retired teacher, freelance writer and former New Mexican who claims Durango as her forever home.