C. J. Box
G. P. Putnam and Sons
March 10, 2015

Endangered, the latest Joe Pickett novel by C. J. Box is the best yet of the series. There are all the right ingredients: a realistic plot, well developed characters, a vivid setting, clear prose and ratcheting tension. Box merges detailed descriptions of Wyoming’s landscape, western culture, and the personal drama regarding Pickett’s family into a thrilling action packed novel.

There are three storylines that appear autonomous, but at the end are weaved together brilliantly. The first is related to environmental issues and government overreach. Box made it very clear what could happen to a state’s economy when the Federal Government decides to put a bird, in this case the sage grouse, on the endangered species list. Besides having to deal with a personal tragedy Joe must outwit the Federal Bureau of Land Management officials of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The tragedy is the second storyline involving Pickett’s adopted daughter April. After running away with the local bad boy/rodeo cowboy Dallas Cates several months ago, she is found beaten horrifically in a ditch along the Wyoming highway. Joe suspects Dallas Cates but he and law enforcement are thrown roadblocks by the Cates family, including the mother who is manipulative and cunning. Box superbly writes how Joe must tread the fine line between being a father and a law enforcement officer. This storyline is relatable to any parent, especially with the quote, “a parent’s worst nightmare.”

The last sub-plot has a cameo appearance by Falconer, Nate Romanowski. He is forced to cooperate with the FBI, being used as bait to catch the billionaire gun for hire Wolfgang Templeton. But this storyline involves more of Nate’s girlfriend Liv Brannan who is being held captive by the Cates family after Nate is critically shot. As these sub-plots intertwine it becomes obvious Joe is intent on finding the truth behind the killings of the birds, the attempted murder of Nate, the beating of April, and the disappearance of Liv.

The general theme of the book is a Libertarian’s dream, the overreach of the Federal Government. These few quotes from the book hammer the point home: “We can do whatever we want, we’re Government,” “That’s why I hate explaining a business plan to a bureaucrat who’s never worked in the private sector in his life,” and “Nobody in a federal agency ever gets fired.” Of course what comes to mind are the numerous scandals of the Obama Administration.

Endangered is a great read that is fast-paced, suspenseful, and action-packed. Within the storyline readers can get a glimpse of important issues that relate to the current day as they take a journey along with the characters. A word of warning, make some time to read this novel in one setting because no one will want to put it down.

C. J. Box also gave a shout out about his up and coming books. The next Joe Pickett novel will be centered on Nate Romanowski and his attempt to free himself from the FBI’s control while reuniting with Joe. Another book, out this summer, Badlands, features a character, Cassie, from the last stand-alone novel, The Highway. It takes place in North Dakota’s oil fields and is described as a “modern Wild West,” that includes the drug trade.

Elise Cooper