“Long Range,” G.P. Putnam's Sons, by C.J. Box
It’s been 19 years since C.J. Box introduced us to Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett in “Open Season.” Now, in “Long Range,” the 20th book of this fine hard-boiled crime series, the passage of time has made Joe and his librarian wife Marybeth empty nesters.
Meanwhile, Joe’s rambunctious pal Nate Romanowski, no longer living off the grid, is running a legitimate business and has settled down with a wife and a new baby.
Of course, domestic bliss doesn’t a crime story make. Fortunately, neither Joe nor Nate is inclined to stay clear of trouble for long. The first sign of it comes when a retired FBI agent who’d been trying to hang something on Nate for years gleefully warns him that a Mexican drug cartel has put a hit out on him. Next, a skilled marksman fires a rifle shot through a local judge’s house from nearly a mile away. The slug narrowly misses the judge, but his wife is not so lucky. The shooting isn't Joe’s case, but he throws himself into it when an anonymous caller fingers Nate as the triggerman.
As if all that weren’t bad enough, Joe’s true nemesis - his haughty, scheming mother-in-law - shows up unannounced trailing troubles of her own.
The result is a fast-paced, tightly written tale that includes, among other things, an arrogant but incompetent local sheriff, a fatal grizzly bear attack, a famous movie director, an illegal prescription drugs racket, planted evidence, a love triangle, a renegade falconer, a kidnapping, several more shootings and a jail break. The main plot, along with several subplots, is filled with so many twists and red herrings that Box keeps readers guessing almost to the end.
The climax comes when Joe rushes the long-range shooter on horseback, a courageous but ill-conceived move that his friends promptly call Pickett’s Charge.
Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, is the author of the Mulligan crime novels including “The Dread Line.”