Wyoming Game Warden Joe Pickett (Blood Trail, 2008, etc.) is at it again.
Six years ago, April Keeley, the abandoned girl the Pickett family had taken in, died in a fiery shootout with allies of her irresponsible, litigious mother. Or did she? Suddenly Sheridan Pickett is getting text messages from someone who claims she’s April, full of family details only April could know. Initially as skeptical as his daughter, Joe becomes convinced that April is alive but in grave danger once more. He’d been even more frantic if he knew that after a long string of dead-end foster homes, the 14-year-old had been rescued from a Chicago brothel by David “Stenko” Stenson, a gangster determined to show some kindness before cancer killed him, and Stenko’s son Robert, a rabid environmental activist obsessed with forcing citizen polluters to buy carbon offsets, often at gunpoint. Box spices Joe’s pursuit of the fast-moving Stensons and their unwilling companion with Joe’s obligatory tangles with the governor’s office, the FBI and his much-married mother-in-law. Basically, though, the tale is a tug-of-war between two father-figures over a young woman who isn’t the daughter of either one.
Though one of Box’s plot twists pays off in spades, most of them don’t, and the latest round of Joe’s unending domestic troubles reads like soap opera. Despite incidental pleasures, this is the weakest of Joe’s nine cases to date.