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Off the Grid: A Joe Pickett Novel


Off the Grid: A Joe Pickett Novel

As you decide what to read next, I respectfully ask that you pick up or sample OFF THE GRID by C. J. Box. Please read the first paragraph, whether you are familiar with the Joe Pickett canon or not. I don’t care where you are or in what setting you do so; in the course of a few sentences, Box transports the beholder to a place that is far away, exotic and, yes, dangerous. This goes beyond writing; it is craftsmanship of high order.

With each new book, Box regularly exceeds the expectations he has created for himself with the previous one. A great deal of that accomplishment is due to his protagonist. Joe Pickett is a Wyoming game warden of average skills and below-average luck. As he has demonstrated time and again throughout the series, state vehicles to which he may be assigned do not have further longevity. The calamity is (usually) not his fault; he is simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Joe is not a sad sack, though. He is the epitome of the American working class, one of the few we encounter in modern fiction.

"OFF THE GRID has everything: a hero to stand up and cheer for, a mystery, suspense that will keep you tightly coiled, and Box’s impeccable, picturesque prose."

At the beginning of the book, Joe misses his own birthday party due to the call of duty and shrugs it off, to the subdued, resigned and understanding chagrin of his wife, Marybeth, an understated tower of strength in her own right. It’s a simple scene, played out over a few pages, but a memorable one nonetheless in a novel that is full of them.

However, the focus of OFF THE GRID is (almost) evenly divided between Joe and Nate Romanowski. Long-time readers know Nate as Joe’s very unlikely friend, a giant of a man who, like his green-skinned counterpart in the comics and movies, just wants to be left alone. Nate has had several encounters with the law, and the powers that be would like nothing more than to bury him so deep he would have to have sunlight pumped down to him.

Therefore, Nate is somewhat taken aback when he is approached by a pair of very competent characters bearing a gift in the form of an offer: If he will hunt down a suspected terror cell that is operating in Wyoming’s Red Desert, they will give him what amounts to a gold-plated “stay out of jail free” card effective as to acts that have occurred in the past. Nate would be content to stay off the grid forever, quietly dodging law enforcement, but his soulmate, Olivia Brannan, is included in the deal as well.

Even as Nate searches the area, tracking the team, and seemingly being tracked himself, Joe is on the trail of a dangerous grizzly bear that has killed one local man and may well kill again. His search is used as cover by Wyoming Governor Spencer Rulon, who wants him to investigate suspicious activity in another part of the state, which ironically dovetails indirectly with Nate’s own mission. Meanwhile, Nate and Marybeth are haunted by a very similar nightmare that prophetically mirrors the story’s climax. As Joe and Nate converge on an abandoned ranch, it sets up the beginning of an apocalyptic encounter that, while requiring abilities well beyond those contained in Joe’s somewhat limited skillset, demonstrates the man’s quiet yet unequaled courage under fire. But will it be enough to win the day?

OFF THE GRID has everything: a hero to stand up and cheer for, a mystery, suspense that will keep you tightly coiled, and Box’s impeccable, picturesque prose. There’s nothing better.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 17, 2016

Off the Grid: A Joe Pickett Novel
by C. J. Box

  • Publication Date: March 21, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
  • ISBN-10: 0735212228
  • ISBN-13: 9780735212220