And now for something completely different - a western mystery.
It has been three years since I last read one of C.J. Box's Joe Pickett mysteries, so it was time for me to check in once again on the Saddlestring, Wyoming game warden and his family. This is the sixth book in the series and here's a caveat for potential readers: Don't read this book until you've read the previous five; you will be lost.
Joe is still the game warden in Twelve Sleep County but that's one of the few constants in this story. The old sheriff of the county, Joe's nemesis, is gone. There is a new sheriff in town and he has quickly become another Pickett nemesis, mainly because he seems incapable of caring about or upholding the law.
Joe's old supervisor, who had helped shield him from some of the bureaucratic minutiae and infighting that he hates, is gone. There's a new head of his department who has taken over the direct supervision of his Twelve Sleep game warden, with an eye to "getting the goods" on him so he can finally push him out.
His friend and ally, Nate Romanowski, is out of the picture - at least at the beginning of the book. Various law enforcement agencies are looking for him, especially the FBI. Joe doesn't know his whereabouts and hasn't heard from him, but before Nate absconded, Joe had promised to feed his hawks and he still honors that promise.
Joe's wife, Marybeth, has started a successful accounting business, which is a good thing because Joe's job doesn't pay much. Their two daughters are growing up and Marybeth is saving for their college education.
In Plain Sight finds Twelve Sleep County in turmoil because the matriarch of the most powerful family in the county, the Scarletts, has gone missing. Opal Scarlett had spent her life setting her sons against each other and now the two older of them are at war over who will control the vast family ranch holdings. The prevailing opinion regarding Opal's disappearance is that one or the other of her sons has killed her and disposed of the body, but the local sheriff doesn't seem to be too eager to investigate.
Meanwhile, a ghost from Pickett's past (which is why you need to read those earlier books) is stalking the family. A series of violent acts involving the killing of wild animals Joe is sworn to protect and leaving the carcasses on or near their house is distressing to the family. Joe searches his memory to try to think who would do such a thing, but he doesn't have a clue.
Box does a good job of describing the Wyoming landscape and the isolation of the inhabitants. His Joe Pickett is a multifaceted character. He first presents as a rather bumbling, ineffective upholder of the law, but there is more there than meets the eye and, as one of the other characters opines, it is dangerous to underestimate him.
The plot moved along at a good pace which kept me turning the pages. There's not a lot of nuance in the characters; they are either good or evil. On the whole, I found this to be an interesting reunion with the Picketts and the ending of the book left me wondering what's going to happen next, so I don't think it will be another three years before I pick up the next one.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars