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Cold Wind (A Joe Pickett Novel) Paperback – March 6, 2012
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From Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
The political issue tackled in "Cold Wind" is wind energy. Wind farm development is a controversial subject in the Cowboy State, carrying with it disputes over landowners' rights, the desirability (or lack thereof) of seeing clusters of 40 or 50, 250-foot-tall turbines towering over the wide open spaces, and who is being enriched at whose expense. It's pretty clear where Box's sentiments lie, and as a Wyomingite I would have to say it's fair to say many Wyomingites agree with him.
The setup is thus: game warden Joe Pickett is out one morning on a routine patrol near the ranch owned by his hated mother-in-law, Missy Alden, and her latest husband, when he sees something dangling from a wind turbine on the Aldens' land. As he investigates, he discovers to his horror that it is the body of Earl Alden, his father-in-law. Making matters worse, Missy is promptly arrested for Earl's murder, and Joe finds himself in the uncomfortable position of trying to prove her innocence. In the course of Joe's investigation, he discovers a number of people who would like to see Earl Alden dead - who could the real murderer be?
The main plot was for the most part enjoyable to read. Joe, as usual, finds himself bucking the system while at the same time trying to remain true to his values. Box does his usual fine job of maintaining suspense. There were some things I found annoying, however, mostly with Box's handling of Wyoming criminal procedure. For example, Box has a lay Justice of the Peace (and feed store owner) preside over Missy's initial appearance and her preliminary hearing. Wyoming, however, did away completely with JP courts about 10 years ago; Missy's initial and prelim would more appropriately have been in front of a Circuit Court judge who is a licensed attorney. Verisimilitude would have taken away Box's ability to weave the local feed store aspect into the story, but would have rung more true. Also, the case would have been styled "State of Wyoming v. Alden," not "Twelve Sleep County v. Alden.". These technical annoyances detracted from the overall quality of the book for me.
There is a subplot involving an assassination attempt on Joe's shadowy friend, Nate Romanowski. I found this subplot rather clunky; it did not seem to fit well at all with the main plot. It did add excitement to the story, and the epilogue does set the scene for a future installment; it just seemed more appropriate for a stand-alone novel.
Overall, I had the sense that Box was trying too hard to put out a story that addressed wind power while it is still a hot topic and simultaneously come up with something fast-moving involving Nate. Although a fun read, "Cold Wind" ultimately falls short. All in all, a pleasant weekend diversion, but not up to the caliber of Box's usual work.
Joe is out patrolling the high ridges - home to the newest kind of farming in wind swept Wyoming - wind farms. He notices that one turbine seems to be turning slower than than the others - the dead body tied to it could be the reason. The body turns out to be Earl, the fifth husband of Joe's mother-in-law Missy. Missy and Joe have never gotten along, but when Missy is charged with murder, both she and Joe's wife Marybeth ask him to look into things on his own. It looks like the local sheriff has already tried and convicted Missy.
Box has taken a very current and very hot topic and woven a great mystery around the whole issue of wind farms. (There's lots of debate in my part of the world about them right now)
Joe Pickett is a wonderfully likable character who tries to do the right thing by everyone, every time. Think white hat. The supporting characters are just as well drawn - the sheriff and his cronies are eminently unlikeable. As is Joe's cold, calculating mother-in-law. Joe's personal life has evolved throughout the novels as well - I wonder how much of the trials of raising three daughters mirrors Box's own life with three daughters. Joe and Marybeth's relationship seems very real as well. The secondary storyline involving Joe's friend Nate Romanowski totally grabbed me. Nate is a master falconer and fugitive. He has gone off the grid and underground in the hills of Wyoming. There are those that want him dead. More Nate please! (Fans of Joe Pike and Jack Reacher would like this character)
Box writes what he knows. His descriptions of the land, the politics, social issues and the people of Wyoming all ring true. The plotting is tight, the story flows seamlessly and the ending was great.
Other than that, Joe Pickett is coming across as an officious individual who does not know when to turn a blind eye. Various characters in the novel come across with serious character/personality flaws. It would be hard to be sympathetic if some of the characters were killed.