Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett returns in this third adventure in C.J. Box's tough, tender, and engrossing series, which just keeps getting better. When a forest service supervisor is murdered right after a manic shooting spree that slaughtered a herd of elk, a mysterious stranger who trains falcons and carries an unusual weapon is arrested for the slaying. Then a special investigative team headed by a devious, vindictive woman arrives in Saddlestring, bent on a bloody confrontation with a group of government-hating survivalists camped out on federal land. Among then is Jeannie Keeley, who abandoned her daughter April three years earlier. Since then, April has become like a daughter to Joe and his wife Marybeth, and a sister to their own children. Now April is right in the middle of what promises to be the last stand for the ragged band of refugees from the firestorms of Waco, Ruby Ridge, and the Montana Freemen, and only Nate the falconer, who owes Joe his life for finding the real killer of the supervisor and freeing him from jail, may be able to save her before the Bighorn Mountains are covered in blood. A tense, taut thriller marked by lyrical renderings of the harsh, beautiful landscape, Winterkill
's subtext, as in Box's previous novels, is the conflict between individual rights and freedoms and governmental power that continues to smolder in the towns and valleys of the American west. --Jane Adams
From Publishers Weekly
Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett runs into trouble again in Box's third fast-paced novel (after Open Season and Savage Run), which focuses on the conflict between parental custody and foster care, as well as the growth of "independent nation" cults. As usual, Pickett, though fallible, is the voice of reason and honesty amid a cacophony of greed and evil. During a horrendous blizzard, he finds the body of Lamar Gardiner, "the District Supervisor for the Twelve Sleep National Forest," pinned by arrows to a tree, near seven illegally shot elk. Sheriff "Bud" Barnum suspects a band of misfits, the Sovereign Citizens, which is camping in the forest, among them Jeannie Keeley, the birth mother of the Picketts' foster daughter, April. Pickett suspects locals killed the combative Gardiner. Soon, the little town of Saddlestring is swarming with press, as well as U.S. Forest Service bureaucrats, including the psychotic Melinda Strickland, and two vicious FBI agents. When Pickett learns of a plan to raid the encampment, he resolves to warn the Sovereigns, especially since Jeannie has April there. Box's description of the harsh yet splendid Wyoming landscape is vivid and memorable, his handling of complex social issues evenhanded and unsentimental. But most of his characters tend to be either two-dimensional villains or saints, and in each book the life of a member of Pickett's family is threatened. Box needs to develop more believable characters to realize his potential as an outstanding new talent.
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