Dead fish and game are only the appetizers for Warden Joe Pickett’s biggest problems in his fourth case.
It’s obvious that cavalier local fisherman Jeff O’Bannon is to blame for the fish floating belly-up in Crazy Woman Creek. But who’s killed the elk, excised the flesh from half his face, and dragged off his enormous carcass? Who’s killed 12 head of Don Hawkins’s cattle in exactly the same way? And has this slaughter of innocents been nothing more than preparation for the remarkably similar murders of ranch hand Tuff Montegue and water-engineering exec Stuart Tanner? Robey Hersig, the County Attorney heading the hastily assembled Northern Wyoming Murder and Mutilations Task Force, lists the likeliest causes: “BIRDS . . . CULTS . . . DISTURBED INDIVIDUALS . . . ARABS . . . GOVERNMENT AGENTS . . . GRIZZLY BEAR . . . ALIENS.” But Joe, skeptical of all these explanations, demands the right to investigate on his own. Even though his mortal enemy, Sheriff Bud Barnum, keeps reminding him he’s only a fish-and-game warden, nobody can deny that Joe’s pulled off some spectacular victories in the past (Winterkill, 2003, etc.).
Not this time, though. The fact-based mutilations are so outré you just know the answer’s going to be a letdown, and it is—even though Joe and his family sweat out suspenseful duels with a self-styled paranormal expert and a trusted neighbor.