THE DISAPPEARED (Joe Pickett Book 18)

C. J. Box

G.P. Putnam’s Sons

March 27th, 2018


THE DISAPPEARED  by C. J. Box has all the elements that readers have come to enjoy in a Joe Pickett novel.  This is a compelling mystery that is action-packed, has details about the western setting, likeable characters, and humorous interaction.

Wyoming Game Warden Joe Pickett has to contend with a new Governor, Colter Allen.  He is continuing the previous practice of retired Governor Spencer Rulon, requesting Pickett to be a troubleshooter. Joe is asked to find a prominent female British executive that never came home from the high-end guest dude ranch she was visiting.  Pressure is mounting from the family, the tabloids, and the British government to find out what happened to her. Unlike Rulon, Joe does not have a special relationship with Allen and suspects he has ulterior motives in asking for this favor.

Sheridan, his daughter, who works at the ranch, volunteers to help along with his dear friend, Nate Romanowski, who gets answers by ignoring the rules of law. Also, in need of a favor Nate is willing to help as he tries to find answers to his own agenda. He wants Joe to intervene with the feds on behalf of Falconers who can no longer hunt with eagles even though their permits are in order.

As with all of Box’s books he delves into an environmental issue, absurd regulations, as well as showing how political leaders are both dislikeable and self-centered.  This includes the Governor’s Chief of Staff, Connor Hanlon, who loves to displace blame.


Elise Cooper:  Why did you decide to set a story around a dude ranch?

 C. J. Box: Many years ago, before the books, I was involved in the International Tourism Business. We promoted vacations in the Rocky Mountain West to Europeans on behalf of the state’s tourism board.  In the United Kingdom, dude ranch vacations are very popular, especially among wealthy women.  They would go for a week or two and try to hook up with these cowboys. In most cases, dude ranches are remote, so guests are totally unplugged and decompressed from their technology.

EC:  In this book your politicians are a reason to drain the swamp?

BOX:  Governor Allen is not based on anyone.  When I replaced Rulon, I wanted the newly elected official to be one whom Joe cannot figure out. No one knows if he is a good guy or a bad guy.  This is one of the threads that will continue with the next book where it will come to a head.  His Chief of Staff, Connor Hanlon never accepts responsibility and seems to have his own agenda.

EC:  You always describe in detail the setting?

BOX:  Over the eighteen books I have written Joe has moved around in the state of Wyoming quite a bit.  He has gone to almost every corner of it, although there are a few more places for him to visit.  In this book, he has gone to Saratoga, in South Central Wyoming, a place I am really fond of. Sometimes I use fictional locations, but Saratoga as described really exists.   I love the great terrain and mountain ranges.  I put in the book quote, ‘The terrain was high and the windswept desert, would have no inkling that twenty-one miles to the south was a lush river valley with mountain peaks on three sides.  Elk Mountain and the Snowy Range rose sun-kissed and blue…’ I hope readers learn about it through Joe’s travels.  I also enjoy talking about the community.  For example, in most Wyoming towns Friday night is much more popular for socializing than Saturday nights.

EC:  You always include a family member in your books as a supporting character?

BOX:  Sheridan, the oldest daughter, is highlighted in this one.  My very first book, Open Season, featured her when she was seven years old.  What I enjoy doing is to focus on a different family member in each of my books.  The next one will have Lucy, his youngest.

EC:  There is also the culture of westerners.  For example, farriers.  Please explain.

BOX:  They shoe horses.  In Western TV shows you might have thought of them as a blacksmith that shape horses’ shoes with fire.  The difference is that a blacksmith does all kinds of metal work while farriers just stick to animal’s shoes.  I guess you can say they are a specialty of a blacksmith.  I also decided to give a shout out to the famous TV show Gunsmoke since it is an iconic western that is embedded in our culture.

EC:  In this book you explore the regulations against Falconers who also enjoy flying eagles?

BOX:  I found out about this through a couple of Falconers who live in Montana.  Even though they have licenses to fly eagles they are prevented from doing so by regulations.  This is so unfair and I hope I showed how political agendas play into these rules.

EC:  It is interesting what you wrote about a Game Warden’s life?

BOX:  I have done that throughout the series.  In a way, it is a very lonely life. I put in this book quote, ‘Game wardens live in their vehicles.  Their pickups also served as their offices in the field and holding cells when necessary.’ They are basically independent operators with very little backup.  I consider them law enforcement because they get involved with all types of crime.  For example, in California, if you remember, there was this rogue cop who shot other cops, went on the run, and was found in a remote cabin by a Game Warden.

EC:  What would you say is the theme?

BOX:  Having the freedom to get away from life’s stress.  I put in the C. S. Lewis quote because it applied perfectly, ‘Why would I ever trade long lazy walks in the forest to going back to traffic, bad air, and insipid ‘men without chests.’’