Game Warden Joe Pickett is bracing for a massive blizzard that’s set to roll through Wyoming, but that’s not the only storm descending upon Saddlestring in this page-turning new thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author C.J. Box.
Set after the events of Shadows Reel (2022), Joe Pickett’s day starts with an unhappy ranch owner complaining about a wolf attack, but ends when he finds a dead body. Before he found the body, Joe was called out to the scene of an accident. A careless driver hit a group of elk, critically injuring one of them before the wounded animal took off into the forest. Joe, following the blood trail, tracks the animal to the Double Diamond Ranch, better known as “Double D” by the locals, one of the largest ranches in Wyoming.
After getting permission to pursue the injured elk on Double D land, which spans out over twenty-thousand aces, Joe comes across a metal building set up in the middle of nowhere. Pressed for time, with a massive storm cell set to blow through the state, Joe knows he has precious little time to get off the mountain and back to his home, where he and his wife, Marbeth, plan to hunker down and wait out the piles of snow. That’s when Joe spots a pair of legs sticking out of the building, and approaches to investigate. Inside, he finds a series of fans and high-end computers. Moments later, someone shoots at him—before disappearing into the swirling whiteout.
When the storm momentarily clears, Joe wants to investigate the man’s death. He learns that the victim is a professor at the University of Wyoming, but soon thereafter, his investigation is shut down by the local sheriff, Scott Tibbs. Then comes a call from the governor’s office, followed by a summons to meet with Colter Allen himself. Joe has a complicated past with Allen, who is wrapping up his first term as governor and in serious danger of losing his position of power. There are even rumblings that former governor Spencer Rulon may run again, something Joe welcomes if it means getting Allen out of office.
In their meeting, the governor not only tells Joe to stand down but orders him not to tell anyone what he found. The body, and the man’s identity, are to remain a secret. Full stop. For Joe, the directive doesn’t sit right, and neither does the news from Tibbs that no body was ever recovered at the supposed scene of the crime.
Meanwhile, Joe’s friend, former outlaw Nate Romanowski, is struggling to keep up with the demand of his thriving business, Yarak Inc. To take on more jobs, he’s hired Sheridan Pickett, Joe and Marybeth’s oldest daughter, who’s nearly done training as Nate’s apprentice and will soon be a master falconer herself. Things are good, and Nate is even considering expanding his operations, an idea presented to him by a friend who has a plan to make that happen. But things take a turn when Nate is approached by a stranger with a past all too similar to his own, whose mere presence threatens everything he’s built.
As Joe, Marybeth, Nate, and Sheridan race to connect the dots and uncover the truth, they suddenly find themselves surrounded by enemies—both old and new—with nobody else to trust. One thing’s for sure . . . It’s about to get Western, and their only hope of getting out alive is to band together and take down each threat one by one.
Rich with the kind of character development you can only get from C.J. Box’s series, longtime fans will appreciate the mix of familiar faces blended in here. Without giving anything away, sharp-eyed readers will recognize plenty of friends and foes of Joe, who in many ways is in deeper trouble and tested more than ever before. Box finds plenty of ways to keep those fan-favorite characters involved, including having Sheridan more engrained in her parent’s affairs than ever before, but what really makes this book work is the constant suspense weaved into every page. Each new development sparks more urgency, creating an unputdownable reading experience that demands answers—and Box delivers more than enough misdirection to have even the most experienced readers off-balance and guessing right up until the stunning conclusion, where he pulls off some of his best surprises so far.
C.J. Box shows yet again why he’s one of the best storytellers alive today with Storm Watch, a riveting new adventure that features one of his best twists and most shocking endings yet. Trust me, whatever you do, do not miss this book.
Author: C.J. Box
Series: Joe Pickett #23
Pages: 368 (Hardcover)
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: February 28, 2023
Real Book Spy Rating: 9.75/10
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