Box’s Joe Pickett series unleashes another jolt of violence in a fast-paced thriller that pits renegade ex-special ops agent Nate Romanowski against his military mentor. Off the grid since he left the service, Romanowski has maintained a low profile in the Wyoming wilderness, his close friendship with Game Warden Joe Pickett and his family one of the few luxuries he has allowed himself. But with the unexpected arrival of three locals in a boat as Nate exercises his falcon, he realizes the past has come back to haunt him.
Dispatching the three would-be assassins, Nate is on the run, convinced that his former mentor in special ops, a master falconer (and therefore master strategist with the heart of a stone killer), is cleaning the slate of any past associations. A history going back to the ‘70s has left Romanowski with serious regrets and a desire to break with all connections to the government he once served. Now everything has changed, his personal environment a killing field for his pursuers, anyone important to Nate at great risk. Severing ties with civilization, Nate goes to ground, knowing that soon he will face his enemy.
While Box yields most of this novel’s nail-biting action to Nate Romanowski, Pickett is by no means sidelined. Dealing with the usual politics of his position in the law enforcement hierarchy, Joe has no illusions about the enmity of the local sheriff or his interest in making Nate a scapegoat for murder. While Nate reconnoiters from the nearby Indian reservation to an enclave of ex-operatives in Idaho he hopes can offer assistance, his mentor moves closer to his human target, perfectly willing to sacrifice anyone Romanowski cares about to bring him closer to a final confrontation. Pickett and his family are prime targets.
With an elegant precision of plot and sufficiently shady characters to make every defensive move dangerous, Box brings his adversaries closer to a reckoning, one that may cost either Romanowski or Pickett their lives. From hair-raising shootouts to the expertise of one killer set against another, the mountain setting is a dramatic background for a novel that highlights man’s intimate relationship to nature and the kill-or-be-killed circumstances that require extreme measures: “If you’re going to try to kill the king, you’d better kill the king.”
The predictable isn’t, the unexpected is, and Box’s talent for surprise is unrelenting in a tale combining Special Forces with international military operations, the isolation of an Idaho-based group of ex-soldiers and the regular folks at large during the opening days of hunting season. There is carnage to be sure—some tragic—as Nate meets his personal Armageddon and learns that a friend’s loyalty goes beyond expectations. Box, as ever, delivers a solid, exciting adventure.