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Cold Wind by C. J. Box

Cold Wind” is a combination western, mystery and thriller set in Wyoming.  It is the 11th in the Joe Pickett Novel series by C. J. Box who lives in Wyoming with his family.  He has won many award for this fiction including the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity, Gumshoe and Barry awards.  His protagonist, Joe Pickett, is a game warden not far from the remote Hole-in-the-Wall canyon that served as the hide-out for the infamous Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and other outlaw gangs.

Joe’s mother-in-law, Missy Alden, is accused of killing her husband, Earl by shooting him and stringing the body up on the blades of one of the wind turbines Earl built on one of the hills on his ranch.  This was property they essentially cheated out of Missy’s former husband, Bud Longbrake.  Bud has been hurt and resentful ever since and is also threatening to tell the court how Missy talked him into helping her get rid of Earl because her current husband was threatening to divorce her.  Missy hires one of the best defense lawyers in the country to present her defense.  Joe agrees to investigate the case and search for the missing Bud Longbrake even though he has never gotten along well with his selfish and over-privileged mother-in-law.

Meanwhile, Joe’s friend, Nate Romanowski, is hiding in the hole-in-the-wall canyon because there is a contract on his head from The Five, a group of black-ops he has worked with who know Nate has enough dirt on each of them to put them away for life.  He doesn’t figure on the source of the trouble that actually comes looking for him in that canyon hide-away while he is camping out with his girlfriend, Alisha.

Cold Wind” is very descriptive, action-packed and highly entertaining.  We get to understand what motivates many of the main characters, whether we agree with their rationales or not.  Joe and Nate especially live by a code that was more typical of the 19th century wild west than the 21st century.  Essentially the old west ethos is brought into the 21st century by virtue of the heavy-duty automatic armament that is brought to the battle.  The information about the flaws in the wind energy business and all the money to be made purely in government subsidies is also a slice of the 21st century and quite eye-opening.

What I don’t find appealing, especially in view of the many acts of gun violence this year, is the glorification of these assault weapons and the ease with which the main characters can justify their use of these weapons to kill people.  There are many instances of vigilante justice, and no one is punished for it. This is common in thriller and western genres where the protagonist is allowed to go after a bad guy (or gal) himself and take them out without any consequences.  I don’t like the message, but as a plot line, it makes for exciting reading.

Liz Nichols


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