'Stone Cold' is a hot mystery
Monday, May 05, 2014 3:32 AM
Sometimes, you just can't fit in.
“Stone Cold” by C.J. Box
©2014,Putnam $26.95, 371 pages
You stick out like a sore thumb, totally unable to melt into the crowd. You feel like you have a neon sign across your shoulders that says "I'M NEW!"
Yeah, you are self-conscious then, but if you are Game Warden Joe Pickett, you get used to it. And yet, as in the new book "Stone Cold" by C.J. Box, standing out could get a man killed.
Anyone who had seen Nate Romanowski on that nearly-moonless night would have instantly known he was a pro.
Romanowski had studied the Scoggins compound, he knew how to get inside and he knew Henry Scoggins was a jerk, that nobody would really miss him. Nate knew where all the security weaknesses and surveillance cameras were - except one. So when Joe Pickett was shown trail-cam video weeks later and he spotted his friend Nate dragging something, he knew that trouble was mountain-high.
For some time, the Feds had been nosing around northeastern Wyoming, where folks kept mostly to themselves. In that atmosphere of solitude lived a certain Wolfgang Templeton, a man who owned half the county and most of the people in it, and whose name repeatedly rose during investigations of high-profile disappearances, including that of Scoggins. Was it just coincidence?
With a ruse of "helping" Medicine Wheel County Game Warden Jim Latta with a project, Pickett headed for the corner of the state, noting the beautiful land and the poverty of its people. Pickett had promised his wife that he would avoid danger, but keeping safe would not be easy when there were so many questions.
Why, for instance, did Latta seem afraid of the county's judge? Why did he look the other way while a couple of Templeton employees poached wild game at will? Who was the cold-eyed dandy on Templeton's ranch? And why did everybody seem to know where Pickett was going, even before he got there?
Perhaps most vexing of all was the question of Pickett's friend Nate and his covert activities. It pained Pickett to imagine how Nate was involved - although not as much as it would hurt if he kept snooping.
Reading parts of "Stone Cold" is somewhat like going on a scenic vacation that takes a bad turn - in a good way.
Author C.J. Box lets his main character, Joe Pickett, savor the land, and it is gorgeous. We are treated to descriptive images of colorful mountains and harsh beauty, where even scrub takes on a relaxing aura and invites us to linger just a bit. It is easy, therefore, to be lulled into forgetting exactly what you have in your hands.
But then Box brings us abruptly back to his novel, in which few can be trusted and everything seems off. We are soothed, then hit with an uppercut of thriller that makes us reel - and makes us want more.
This novel is part of a series but can definitely be read by itself, so if you are in need of a hot mystery, get this. You won't be sorry because, for you, "Stone Cold" fits.