Joe Pickett may be one of the last honorable men in Wyoming. Everyone else in Savage Run, the second in the Joe Pickett series by C.J. Box, seems to ruthlessly pursue his/her own goals, and usually those goals involve the destruction of anyone who opposes him/her. Who knew the wild, wild West was still quite so wild?
The book begins with a cow being blown up and, along with the cow, a famous (or notorious, depending on your point of view) eco-terrorist and his new wife. They were out that day busily spiking trees when the cow exploded nearby.
It turns out that the eco-terrorist was an old friend/lover of Joe Pickett's wife, Marybeth, from high school days and soon Marybeth starts getting mysterious phone calls from someone who says he is that long-ago lover. But isn't he dead? Well, his body was never actually found - just bits and pieces.
Meantime, while all this is happening, Joe is confronting a local rich hobby rancher about the giant trophy elk head hanging on his wall. It is evident to Joe that the animal was killed out-of-season. Plus, he happens to know (or at least strongly suspect) that only the head was taken. The rest of the carcass was left for scavengers. This ignoble end to a noble beast offends the sensibilities of the game warden, truly one of Wyoming's last honorable men. But the rancher is politically well-connected and extremely powerful and the chances of ever bringing him to justice seem small indeed.
The plot gets more complicated when it turns out that two hired killers (Hired by whom?) are stalking environmentalists and have already killed several in some truly heinous ways. It was they who blew up the poor innocent cow that killed the two tree-spikers.
Or did it?
C.J. Box is a talented writer and he obviously knows the physical setting he is writing about very well . He makes his readers smell the spruce, hear the rattling of the aspen and cottonwood leaves, feel the wonder and fear of an elk herd being stalked by wolves, and stand in awe of the landscape of the unforgiving granite mountains and canyons. It's a rousing good tale and I look forward to more in this series.