‘He’s a modern crime master’ – Long Range by CJ Box

Can it really be nine years since we enjoyed the year in which a CJ Box / Joe Pickett novel was released every month? We made our way through those initial books – Open Season, Savage Run, Winterkill, Trophy Hunt, Out of Range, In Plain Sight, Free Fire, Blood Trail, Below Zero and Nowhere to Run – at a gallop, and collectively they were enough to cement Joe Pickett and CJ Box’s other books (we’re talking Blue Heaven, The Highway, Back of Beyond etc) in our readerly hearts. These days, as with Stephen King, there tend to be a couple of new books a year – and they form a firm staple of our annual reading calendar.

Long Range is the twentieth Joe Pickett novel. For the uninitiated, Joe Pickett is a game warden in Wyoming, a real ‘Dudley Do Right’ according to his friends and (by this point) many enemies. His day job is to patrol an impossible amount of land making sure hunters have all the right permits and no one gets up to any malfeasance. Of course (as you’d no doubt expect), over the years Joe has been sucked into cases involving environmental activists, and plots involving rich sorts who think they’re above the law, and corruption in local Government and even acts of domestic terrorism, against a backdrop of ever evolving family life (Joe has three daughters, at least one of whom regularly gets herself into trouble). And, you know, there’s best friend Nate Romanowski who is sort of ex black ops and given to flying off the handle at a moment’s notice at which point he might, you know, tear your ears off. Tearing a person’s ears off is sort of Nate’s catchphrase.

So. You’re all caught up, more or less. Long Range opens with an assassination attempt: someone takes a short at a local judge from about a mile away and, as the bullet travels across that distance, the judge just happens to move out of the way and so it’s his wife who gets hit. The new sheriff doesn’t take long to point the finger at Nate and so Joe is on the case (with his wife Marybeth doing quite a lot of the heavy lifting it should be said) trying to clear Nate’s good name. But that isn’t all – because the local sniper (whosoever that turns out to be) is but one strand of a rip roaring page turner that involves Sinaloan cartel revenge and killer bears. As we’ve said many times before, the great joy of a CJ Box novel is in the combination of ‘oh, he’s set us up with a killer situation, I wonder how this will resolve itself’ and ‘man, that writing is breathtaking, that glorious Wyoming countryside has just come to life in front of my eyes’.

Just about the only criticism you could level at Long Range is that it’s over too damn quickly (or it will be if you’re anything like me and sit up reading the damn thing into the night when you should be sleeping). I did think as we drew to the close that Box might be setting us up for a solo Romanowski book but perhaps that isn’t to be just yet (but if someone could whisper in CJ’s ear and let him know that we’d be up for that, we’d appreciate it…)

Any Cop?: Ah you know by this point we’re suckers for CJ Box. We loved it, we recommend it, we’d suggest you go all the way back to the start and tear through these books like we did. He’s a modern crime master and that is quite literally all there is to say on the subject.

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