When the new governor of Wyoming sends game warden Joe Pickett out of his district on a special assignment, things get western in The Disappeared, the all-new novel from the king of cowboy noir, C.J. Box.
Following the events of Vicious Circle (2017), Joe Pickett and his wife, Marybeth, are living in a townhouse in Saddlestring while their rural state-owned house on Bighorn Road is being rebuilt after a fire destroyed it. Lucy, their youngest of three daughters, is the only girl still living at home. And while their lives are mixed up and chaotic, having been displaced and lost everything they owned, Joe and Marybeth do their best to keep things as normal as possible for their daughter, who’s in the middle of her senior year of high school.
That plan, however, takes a hit when Coulter Allen, the new governor, informs Joe that he’s sending him on a special assignment to Saratoga.
Almost six months prior, Kate Shelford-Longden, a well-known British executive, went missing from Silver Creek Ranch, a high-end luxury guest ranch known for hosting wealthy families and celebrities around the year. Her disappearance has caused an international tabloid media storm, which hasn’t exactly made Governor Allen’s first few months in office easygoing. Like his predecessor, the beloved (and fan-favorite) Spencer Rulon, Allen wants Joe to be his “range rider” and head to Saratoga to find some answers.
Battling a blinding January snowstorm, Joe drives the three hundred miles from Saddlestring to Saratoga, where he knows someone with a possible connection to Kate Shelford-Longden’s time in Wyoming.
As it turns out, Sheridan, Joe’s oldest daughter, is a horse wrangler at Silver Creek Ranch. Now twenty-three, Sheridan lives on the ranch year-round. Not only did she spend time with Kate Shelford-Longden, or “Cowgirl Kate” as the tabloids have taken to calling her, but Sheridan plays a significant role throughout Box’s latest book. Equal parts Joe, Marybeth, and Nate, Sheridan steals the show in her scenes and displays the kind of moxie and “it” factor that’ll have more than a few hoping to see her star in her own book or series one day. Longtime fans will enjoy her reunion with Joe and love their interactions as Joe struggles to process that his little girl is all grown up and capable of handling herself.
As he begins tracing the footsteps of other investigators who searched for Cowgirl Kate before him, word quickly spreads that a new game warden is in town. Things are complicated further when Kate’s sister accompanies a journalist to Wyoming, casting a flashbulb-sized spotlight on Joe and his investigation.
From the get-go, Joe notes that things feel off, and it doesn’t take long for him to start bumping into a number of colorful, if not questionable, characters. There’s the governor’s tightly-wound chief of staff, two brothers with a reputation for violence, a lazy employee working the night shift at a lumber mill, an elderly woman who doesn’t know how to mind her own business, a good-looking head wrangler, and a pair of mysterious men who seem to always be in the wrong place at the right time.
A separate plotline brings Nate Romanowski — a former special ops soldier turned master falconer, and Joe’s longtime friend — to Saratoga. Though he’s gone straight and now owns his own business, Nate still struggles to adapt to life on the grid. Seeing his reaction to carrying a cell phone is nearly as funny as another scene when Nate uses an unorthodox weapon to defend himself. It’s both hilarious and, well, typical Nate all at the same time. Not only does his path cross with Joe’s, but Nate, as always, chases a crazy conspiracy theory that might just turn out to not be so crazy after all.
With a growing list of suspects and the governor’s office breathing down his neck and demanding answers or else, Joe races to discover the truth about Cowgirl Kate, which leads to a dangerous confrontation that’ll test him in more ways than one. . .
Like a magician, C.J. Box waves one hand to grab readers’ attention, and then, when they least expect it, uses the other hand to land a perfectly-timed twist that’ll knock readers right off their feet. It’s something he’s repeatedly done over the course of seventeen previous novels and continues to thrive at.
Likewise, Box continues to masterfully develop his brilliant cast of characters. Who else could turn an average-looking, ordinary, do-good game warden who’s a lousy shot and honest to a fault into the star protagonist of a #1 New York Times bestselling series? That’s the true magic of Box’s writing, though, as readers connect with the Picketts because they’re so real and relatable.
Joe and Marybeth live paycheck-to-paycheck, they struggle to attend their kids’ extracurricular activities, and each time they manage to take a step forward in life, they suddenly take two steps back. They’ve faced hardships time and time again, but always come out on the other side with each other to lean on. For those reasons and more, the Picketts are the all-American family you can’t help but root for, and no other author has ever developed an entire family the way C.J. Box has throughout his series.
The action, conspiracies, and twists are all terrific, but it’s those moments where Joe, Marybeth, and their daughters are around the table that shine the brightest–and his ability to capture the touching moments between family members with such depth and soul is what makes Box’s series one of the very best franchises in print today, regardless of genre.
A smart and compelling plot, razor-sharp writing, and nonstop suspense make this Box’s best novel to date. The standard has been set. . . The Disappeared is the book to beat in 2018.
Author: C.J. Box
Series: Joe Pickett #18
Pages: 388 (Hardcover)
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: March 27, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 9.5/10
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.