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Dark Sky: A Joe Pickett Novel


Dark Sky: A Joe Pickett Novel

C. J. Box has been gradually aging Joe Pickett, his understated iconic protagonist, for 20 years. Both enter their third decade together with DARK SKY, a simple yet ambitious tale that hints of significant conclusions and portentous beginnings.

Portentous. That’s a $20 word that one likely would never hear come out of Joe’s mouth, not because he lacks the intelligence to understand it but rather because of who he is. Box has fashioned a character who is neither flashy nor extraordinarily skilled. Joe is a competent Wyoming game warden who, when required, rises to the occasion. The late Miles Davis would exhort his band members to play what they know and then go beyond it. That describes Joe’s performance in each appearance.

"Box has never been afraid to change things up and seems to be on the verge of doing so once again if the ending --- one of the very best I have ever read --- is any indication."

DARK SKY is a perfect illustration of this. It finds Joe at age 51 and introspective, as he acknowledges that he is not enjoying his job as much as he used to. There are a couple of reasons for this. While recovering from a prior injury, he is still feeling the residual effects --- limitations that are technically minor but in an emergency can become significant. Also, the assignment that forms the core of this book is a task that he is taking on at the request/order of Wyoming’s governor.

Steven “Steve-2” Price is a Silicon Valley billionaire whose name is synonymous with an extremely popular social media site. Price has decided that he wants to go elk hunting in order to experience the feeling of killing and processing his own food from start to finish. He also is considering Wyoming as the site for a new venture that will bring jobs, commerce and money to the area. The governor has put Joe on the spot for babysitting --- there is no other word for it --- Price and his assistants, and he would rather be anywhere else than shepherding around a figure who is the living, breathing stereotype of the term “all hat, no cattle.”

The governor has made it clear that the venture should be a successful one, hinting that Joe’s job will be in jeopardy if Price is disappointed and decides not to select Wyoming. With a local rancher providing the horses for the excursion and as backup, Joe tries to make the best of a bad situation, one that quickly turns deadly. Price has made enemies he doesn’t even know about, and they are using this journey to exact a final revenge. All that is in their way is Joe, who is somewhat hobbled and at the mercy of nature.

Joe doesn’t have an ace up his sleeve, though he does have a family and a very loyal and dangerous friend. But he is cut off from communications while his loved ones have only a vague idea of where he is. Let’s just say that it looks like his long-term situation is about to change. And while the novel is satisfyingly complete (for the most part), the conclusion will leave readers eager for the next installment.

This series has been excellent since its inception. Box has never been afraid to change things up and seems to be on the verge of doing so once again if the ending --- one of the very best I have ever read --- is any indication. I would urge readers who are unfamiliar with these books to jump in right now with both feet. Disappointment is not an option.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 12, 2021

Dark Sky: A Joe Pickett Novel
by C. J. Box

  • Publication Date: August 3, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
  • ISBN-10: 0525538305
  • ISBN-13: 9780525538301