After an eventful trip to Jackson Hole (Out of Range, 2005), Wyoming Fish and Game Warden Joe Pickett is back in Twelve Sleep County for a homecoming that’s anything but homey.
Trouble starts when fishing guide Tommy Wayman tosses Opal Scarlett, matriarch of the Thunderhead Ranch, into the river over a long-simmering feud. Assuming that Opal’s too mean to die, Tommy isn’t worried when he doesn’t see her climb out. But her disappearance—neither she nor her corpse has turned up anywhere since then—leaves her three sons free to battle it out with shovels over ownership of the ranch. That’s the opening scene Joe interrupts, accompanied by his daughter Sheridan, 14, and her best friend, Hank Scarlett’s daughter Julie. Soon enough, both Joe and Sheridan will be haunted by spectral sightings of Opal, grinning over her sons’ fratricidal strife. By that time, though, Joe will have bigger troubles of his own. Fresh from his murder of convicted killer Wacey Hedeman, J.W. Keeley is on his way to Twelve Sleep County, eager to destroy Joe, whom he blames for the slaughter of his family (Winterkill, 2003). If you think Joe can expect help from the law-enforcement community, you don’t know this series, and it’s high time you started.
Despite an encore roster of perps and felonies that plays like a Greatest Hits list from Joe’s first five adventures, Box continues to write the sharpest suspensers west of the Pecos.