Review of “Cold Wind” by C. J. Box

This is the eleventh book in the Joe Pickett series. (The first novel featuring Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett was Open Season published in 2001.) Somehow I knew I would like this, but I resisted going back to the earlier books in the series so I could evaluate if it could be read as a standalone. I hope everyone appreciates my sacrifice for the sake of readers of my blog, since as you may know, reading series out of order MAKES ME TOTALLY CRAZY. Or more so, as the case may be.

Joe Pickett is a decent, quiet type (“strong yet silent” as one might say in the personals), who is happily married with three daughters, and who won’t compromise when it comes to carrying out the law (in spite of the contention by other characters that the legal solution is not always the most just solution). Like other game warden characters I’ve encountered in books, Pickett is happiest just being out in the natural habitat where he works, which in Pickett’s case is the big sprawling open land of Wyoming, punctuated by creeks, rivers, and precipitous mountain ranges. Joe is in his mid-forties, slim, wears cowboy clothes, and has a perpetual squint. One envisions a Clint Eastwood kind of guy.

When his mother-in-law is arrested for the murder of her latest (fifth) husband, multi-millionaire developer Earl Alden, Joe’s wife asks him to help exonerate her mother. Because the body was chained to a wind turbine, Joe suspects the murder might be a result of some of those who are against wind farming, and he and his wife Marybeth look into the politics and economics of using wind for energy.

Meanwhile, Joe’s friend Nate Romanowski is in big trouble, being pursued by relentless killers. Tension builds as the threat to Nate increases, and as Joe gets closer to finding the real killer of Earl Alden.

Discussion: Why a game warden, instead of, e.g., a police detective? As Box explains:

“Game wardens are unique because they can legitimately be involved in just about every major event or situation that involves the outdoors and the rough edges of the rural new west. They’re trained and armed law enforcement officers, and nearly every human they encounter in the field is armed, which is unique. Often, they’re too far from town to call backup in an emergency so they’re forced to deal with situations with their experience, weapons, and wits. Their districts can encompass 5,000 square miles of rough country filled with wildlife, history, schemes, and secrets. By necessity, they’re lone wolves.”

In short, a game warden is perfect for Wyoming. And this novel by Box has a very Wyoming-esque feel to it. I like game warden procedurals and I liked Joe Pickett a lot.

On the negative side, the author clearly has an agenda and wants to advance the argument that wind farms are not the panaceas they are touted as being; the “mystery” plot line gets second shrift and doesn’t live up to the rather spectacular initial crime scene.

As for whether the book works as a standalone, I would have appreciated two extra paragraphs in the book. Just two. One on what happened a year ago (or, one presumes, in the previous book), which had a big effect on everybodys’ relationships to everybody else but wasn’t exactly clear to me. The other would be a paragraph providing background on Nate Romanowski. Not having those clarifications was not fatal, but still served as a distraction for me.

Evaluation: The Joe Pickett detective series is worth pursuing, especially for the atmospheric sense of Wyoming, and the appeal of the protagonist, Clint Eastwood Joe Pickett.

Rating: 3.5/5

Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2011

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18 Responses to Review of “Cold Wind” by C. J. Box

  1. Staci says:

    I am bowing to you right now for sacrificing sanity in order to review this book for us. I may have to pick this series up for my husband. This sounds like a job he would have been perfect for!!

  2. Sandy says:

    We do appreciate your sacrifice! I swear I read about a new series every 3.2 days, and I’ll never get to them. Even the new ones I like, I never get back to them. I’m not so sure I like his not-so-hidden agenda here, but I like that we aren’t exposed to yet another police officer, FBI agent, PI or pathologist.

  3. gaye says:

    You ‘took one for the team’ by doing this out of order…thanks for the sacrifice!
    Great job!

  4. bermudaonion says:

    I don’t like it when I feel like an author has an agenda, but this book sounds interesting enough that I’d be willing to give it a try.

  5. zibilee says:

    Oh, I am not sure about this one. The fact that the “message” is so pertinent to the book and that the mystery is a bit underdeveloped might make me angry, but I love the fact that you had a mental image of Clint Eastwood in mind while reading this. I also loved the last sentence of this review. Wonderful to read.

  6. Barbara says:

    I wondered if you would review this book after seeing C. J. Box at your Tucson book festival. I just received it from LibraryThing yesterday and haven’t read any other books by him but I’m looking forward to this one. I may get a little riled by his agenda but, hey, he’s entitled to his opinion. Thanks for the review.

    • Barbara,
      He definitely has an interesting take on wind energy, one of which I was not aware, and I appreciated hearing his side of the argument. I just wish the murder portion of the book had been a bit better! But I did like the book, nevertheless!

  7. One of the problems I have with some series is how the author catches new readers up with the story so far for those who are reading out of order (you are very brave to do that). I don’t think all do it well. I guess that’s one of the reasons I’m a little OCD about reading books in order. I don’t know if this is a series for me but I know if I do read it I’ll be picturing Clint.(never a bad thing).

    • Well, I sympathize with the author; it’s a difficult problem. You don’t want to put spoilers in for the previous book, in case readers do get started later in the series. Even for regular readers, it’s probably a year between books, and you need to remind them of what happened before. And yet you want new readers to be happy too. Personally, I don’t mind at least some repetition, and even some spoilers; you know when you’re reading a book late in the series that this is the price you’ll pay.

  8. Julie P. says:

    I’m just letting go with reading series in order! But thanks for sacrificing for us!

  9. Jenners says:

    Thank you for your selfless sacrifice. Of course, it just proved your point about having to read series in order.

    And did you change your blog around? It is coming up real different when I come to it, especially the comments. Me like!

  10. Trisha says:

    Like you, I go crazy at even the thought of reading books out of order, so props to you for managing it. I must admit that I am loathe to start a series with 11 books in it already! I get all antsy and start reading nothing but the series with ones so long.

  11. Alyce says:

    I don’t think that this is my type of series, but I enjoyed reading your review. The game warden as a main character does seem like it would lend itself to interesting plots. I also hate reading series out of order.

  12. softdrink says:

    Does this mean there are now 10 more books out there that you just HAVE to read?

  13. stacybuckeye says:

    Hee Hee. I’ve added the first of the series to my reading list (thanks for including it) and will now have no trouble picturing Joe as Clint!

  14. Belle Wong says:

    I’m always reading series out of order, but I do deeply appreciate your sacrifice, and the lengths you go to for us, Jill 🙂

    I’ve never read a game warden procedural before. I’ve seen this series at my library’s ebook website – I might give it a try.

  15. Margot says:

    Wyoming is one of my favorite states so from that standpoint I’ll try one of these books. I like the quote you used about game wardens. I never thought about it before and had no idea they were trained law enforcement officers.

  16. I have this one on the TBR pile…and since I have not read any of the other books in the series, I too was a little concerned.
    I do not like reading out of order, but these days it is often necessary. You are so brave..lol

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