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Vicious Circle: A Joe Pickett Novel


Vicious Circle: A Joe Pickett Novel

Joe Pickett was introduced to the world by author C. J. Box in 2001 with OPEN SEASON. One would never expect that a Wyoming game warden would have enough adventures to sustain interest over the course of many novels --- of which the newly published VICIOUS CIRCLE is the 17th --- but Box has accomplished this, and then some. He has done it by aging his characters in real time and resisting the temptation to keep Joe vulnerable on several fronts.

Joe is not a materially wealthy man, nor is he especially talented. What sustains him is his drive to do the right thing, whether at home with his family or on the job; what sustains the books is that, in Box’s extremely capable hands, that is enough to acquire at least a draw against an adversary, and sometimes a win. The result is a guarantee of a quietly engaging story in a unique setting where nature can be as much or more of an adversary as a criminal. An added bonus is that readers unfamiliar with the series can, in most cases, pick up any volume as a starter and be brought into Joe’s world. Box smoothly brings newcomers up to date while gently reminding fans of what has gone before, all without interrupting the flow of the story.

"There are a number of twists and turns in VICIOUS CIRCLE, and while you may see some of them coming, you certainly won’t see all of them."

Box brings his considerable skill set to the fore once again in VICIOUS CIRCLE, running a primary and secondary plot along parallel tracks. The secondary plot is the one most directly concerned with Joe’s job. Someone is poaching game on his turf with impunity and seems to be pretty much unstoppable. This plot bookends the novel and hums beneath the surface for the balance of the story, with Joe ever watchful though unsuccessful. It’s important in that it provides one of several of the book’s interesting twists and illustrates an element of Joe’s basic character and personality. While he is a strictly by-the-book guy, he can find a work-around to the occasional situation that requires some flexibility without violating his core principles.

The situation that occupies most of Joe’s attention in VICIOUS CIRCLE begins with the disappearance of Dave Farkus, a rather colorful if somewhat useless resident of Twelve Sleep County who has gone missing. Dave is a crusty customer in the area, a hunter who is not unknown to Joe and who alternates between being a thorn in his side and being of some occasional use. There is a scene during the initial search for Dave that, interestingly enough, might put the reader in the mind of a pivotal incident in the film Alien, though it has nothing to do with science fiction, horror or anything else for that matter, other than straight-ahead terrific storytelling. The reader ultimately learns of the circumstances behind Dave’s disappearance somewhat before Joe does, even though the whys and the wherefores of it have quite a bit to do with the Pickett family.

It develops that Dallas Cates, who at one time dated Joe’s daughter April, is back in the area. Dallas, who had been a major star on the rodeo circuit, lost it all as the result of his mistreatment of April, which, among other things, landed him in prison and eventually led to the destruction of his family, a group of outlaws and ne’er-do-wells who had been the scourge of law enforcement personnel in Wyoming. It turns out that Dallas is seeking revenge on the Picketts and has a triple-pronged plan to get it. The always dangerous Nate Romanowski shows up in time to give Joe a hand, but it may not be enough. Dallas has a serious mad-on for the Picketts, and it’s coming full bore from several different directions.

There are a number of twists and turns in VICIOUS CIRCLE, and while you may see some of them coming, you certainly won’t see all of them. If that’s not enough to pique your interest, the book also includes a vignette near its conclusion in which Joe sustains a minor injury in a rather unique manner, the likes of which I don’t believe I’ve ever encountered. This title is also a pivotal one in the series. A new governor is introduced, which may or may not be a good thing for Joe. Meanwhile, Joe’s penchant for being unintentionally involved in the destruction of government property reaches a new and extremely unfortunate high water mark. Both elements, and others, are sure to resonate through future volumes of this series, which continues to be one of the very finest currently being published in any genre.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 24, 2017

Vicious Circle: A Joe Pickett Novel
by C. J. Box

  • Publication Date: January 23, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
  • ISBN-10: 0399185496
  • ISBN-13: 9780399185496