Long Range by C. J. Box

Have you ever found a book series that was so immersive that when you finished one book, you immediately picked up the next in the series? Sometimes there’s a cliffhanger that needs resolution or you’ve become so invested in the characters you don’t want to let go. The Lord of the Ring series by J.R.R. Tolkien or the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon are good examples. For me it’s always been the Master and Commander series by Patrick O’Brian (and omg, don’t get me started on these books – I’ll talk your ear off!) Now I’ve added another to my favorites – the Joe Pickett series by C. J. Box.

Joe Picket is a game warden in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming. He keeps an eye on the wildlife and makes sure hunting and fishing are done legally. He often teams up with his friend Nate Romanaski, a falconer who sometimes tiptoes the legal line. In Long Range, Joe is drawn into the investigation of a case where a local woman has been shot from a very long distance, a shot that would require specialized equipment and a particular set of skills. The woman is active in the community and liked by everyone, but her husband is a controversial local judge and has made more than one enemy. Was this a case of the wrong person being shot? If so, was the shooter going to try again? And who would have the skill and knowledge to make that kind of shot?

Because of Joe’s knowledge of the area and the locals, he is put on the sheriff’s task force. When Nate is falsely accused and arrested, Joe’s task becomes two-fold – finding the murderer and clearing his friend.

Long Range is number 20 in this series (I read the first 19 in the series last fall – I warned you, they’re addictive!) and the quality shows no signs of declining. The mystery is tight and suspenseful, the writing is sharp, crisp and evocative and the characters are multi-layered and interesting. Box touches on a wide range of topics from falconry, to marksmanship to environmental protection and responsibility. The rugged scenery of Wyoming serves as a stunning backdrop and Joe’s unwavering love of his family, loyalty to his friends and his unbending moral code act as the center of this series. Highly recommended.

 

Online Reading Challenge – October Wrap-Up

Hello Fellow Reading Fans!

How did your October Challenge reading go this month? The topic of Nature gave us a lot of options – I hope you found one you liked!

I had a good month; I read (and am now hooked on) the Joe Pickett mystery series by C.J. Box. I’ve actually read several in the series (there are 19 so far with number 20 coming out early next year), but I’ll just talk about the first in the series, Open Season.

Joe Pickett is the new game warden in Twelve Sleep, Wyoming near the Bighorn Mountains. It’s beautiful country, teeming with wildlife and natural resources, but it also seems to attract some people who prefer to live outside the law. Unlike his predecessor, Joe refuses to look the other way or accept bribes and that makes him unpopular with the hunters and fishermen who don’t follow the rules. When two outfitters are murdered and a third man dies in Joe’s backyard, the local sheriff decides that the third man killed the first two, them committed suicide and declares the case closed.

However, this just doesn’t add up for Joe and he begins poking around, looking for clues. The secrets and conspiracies he begins to unravel could be catastrophic for some – including himself and his family. Box navigates the various political issues that are part of modern Wyoming (economic, ecological, environmental) with a delicate touch, showing that each viewpoint has valid concerns, but also has radicals that won’t allow compromise. Joe is a man of few words and often gets himself in trouble by his refusal to back down or look away. He adores his wife and daughters and loves the beauty and wildness of the countryside. He isn’t bigger-than-life heroic, but is determined and observant and able to find solutions that others don’t – or won’t – see.

I especially enjoyed Box’s writing style. Descriptive without being flowery, the harsh but beautiful landscape, unforgiving weather and wildlife of Wyoming comes to life vividly – you can almost smell the sagebrush or see the flow of a pronghorn herd racing across the plateau. This ability to put the reader into the physical story reminds me a lot of Tony Hillerman and his mysteries set in the Southwest. I highly recommend the Joe Pickett mystery series – but be careful, you’ll likely get hooked!

Now it’s your turn – what did you read this month? Let us know in the comments!

Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center

Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center is a book about starting over. Helen Carpenter is thirty-two years old and has been divorced for a year. She is just fine with how her life is going, thank you very much, but if she actually thinks about it, she really needs to take a break to try and put herself together again. Her much younger brother, younger by ten years, mentions off-hand about a wilderness survival course. Thinking that this is exactly what she needs, Helen decides to sign up and give it a try. Right when she’s getting ready to leave, her brother’s best friend, Jake, tells her that he is also coming on the trip and just so happens to need a ride. Great. This life-changing journey has turned into a cross-country trip with her younger brother’s annoying best friend. Not what she wanted at all.

The wilderness survival course that Helen has signed up for is three weeks long and puts her and a group of people smack dab in the remotest part of a mountain range in Wyoming. Her fellow survivalists are nothing like what she was expecting. Instead of the hippie folks and rugged back-packers she was envisioning, Helen finds herself at orientation with a group of college students all significantly younger than her and who are basically doing this course as a way to get college credit. The person in charge doesn’t even look like he’s out of high school, for goodness sake! Helen is clearly out of her element. This point is further emphasized when the instructor lays out a series of very strict rules. Helen is in way over her head.

In order to begin this course with a clean slate, she tells Jake to pretend like he doesn’t even know her. She wants to begin anew. This sort of backfires on her when Helen realizes that Jake has become the popular guy and also that no one else in her group really likes her that much. Such begins Helen’s road to rediscovery, a wilderness survival course that is nothing like she thought it would be with people she wasn’t expecting. With sore, blistery feet, a medical emergency, a summer blizzard, and love blooming on rocky trails, Happiness for Beginners is a breath of fresh air as Helen works to remake herself into the new person she wants to become.


This book is also available as an Overdrive eAudiobook, which is how I listened to this book.