There’s a reason CJ Box is a fan favorite: the man knows how to tell a story. He has 17 novels to prove it. Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett returns in Vicious Circle, dealing with unfinished business from a former thriller
(Endangered) where Joe and his family ran afoul of a ex-con rodeo star Dallas Cates. Their
numbers greatly reduced, the only member still alive when Dallas is released is the vindictive head of the family, Brenda Cates. A quadriplegic since her last encounter with Pickett, Brenda is currently incarcerated in a women’s prison, unable to strike, silently nurturing hate in her heart for Joe and his family.
Back in Saddlestring, Joe and his wife, MaryBeth, have been busy raising their three girls: Sheridan, April and Lucy, only the youngest still at home. The trouble begins when Joe receives a muddled phone call from hunter Dave Farces. Joe is unable to make out the message when the line is broken. He is preparing to interview Farkus at his hunting camp when other events distract his attention from the task at hand. Most disturbing is the fact that Dallas Cates is back in town--with revenge on his mind. The message is clear: the rodeo star’s new obsession is Joe’s family. Joe’s primary concern after receiving this ominous news is keeping his daughters safe. After two near-successful attacks on Pickett’s daughters--first April, then Sheridan--by an unknown female, Joe turns to Farkus for answers. Unfortunately, Farkus is no longer alive to share his secrets.
Familiar characters people Vicious Circle, bringing the unexpected trouble into sharp focus, the evil intentions of the Cates family temporarily thwarted but not necessarily finished when Dallas returns to town. The damage inflicted in
Endangered was apparently not enough to curtail the menace of this family. Clearly Cates isn’t working alone, the looming threat well-planned, Pickett forced to accept his mother-in-law's hospitality for his family for a time. Ironically, the infamous Missy, who also wastes no affection on her daughter’s husband, has landed another in a string of wealthy husbands. The new one, Marcus Hand, is a smooth-talking, highly-paid lawyer representing Dallas Cates in court. Unfortunately only Missy can provide a place where the Pickett women can be safe. It’s a complicated web, and Joe is forced to follow wherever it leads. While the pieces fall slowly into place, Joe and his family are at the mercy of criminals comfortable with inflicting harm to their victims.
The beautiful landscape of Wyoming is a grim witness to the unfolding plan for vengeance, good guys versus bad, violence quick and deadly. Joe Pickett certainly seems a magnet for trouble, this case no exception. And just when Joe is confronted with more than he can handle, his old friend Nate Romanowski appears. A strong character in his own right, Romanowski is the perfect foil to the fair-minded ranger.
Like most of Box’s tense thrillers, the story is complex, law and order clashing with criminals threatening mayhem. Doomed to follow his own moral tenets, Pickett is pushed to the edge of endurance unraveling the twisted plans made manifest by Dallas Cates, as shocking and brutal as the encounters in
Endangered. The characters are vivid, the landscape treacherous, and the outcome uncertain as Joe faces an impossible challenge, all the more terrifying for its devious intention: to destroy Joe’s family.