Cold Wind
C.J. Box
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Buy *Cold Wind (A Joe Pickett Novel)* by C.J. Box online

Cold Wind (A Joe Pickett Novel)
C.J. Box
496 pages
March 2012
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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In his Western U.S. thriller, C. J. Box delivers a volatile combination of murder and green politics as game warden Joe Pickett’s wealthy mother-in-law is framed for murder of her husband, millionaire industrialist Earl Alden. The incident causes Joe’s home town of Saddlestring, Wyoming, to seethe with pent-up suspicions after Joe finds Earl’s body swinging from high atop a massive wind turbine.

From the initial missing person’s report to Earl’s riderless horse, from Joe’s climb up the tower and the bloody bullet hole lodged deep in Earl’s chest to Missy’s frantic phone calls for help, Box’s novel simmers with radical tension. Like it or not, Joe finds himself at the center of the investigation, preparing to do battle with officious County Sheriff Kyle McLanahan while also attempting to unravel the strange machinations surrounding Earl’s new company, Rope the Wind.

Recently wind energy has been taking over much of the State, the finished turbines climbing two hundred and fifty feet into the sky. Not everyone is happy as the blades spin and slice through the air, especially ranchers Bob and Dode Lee, who resented Earl and the new transmission lines he planned to build across their ranch.

A controversial figure, Earl had plenty of enemies and had been rubbing his wealth and power in the noses of those who had “short supplies of both.” To make matters worse, Missy has been acting like she’s above it all, the locked gates in front of her Alden Ranch a monument to controversy. Gossip proves to be powerful weapon, and many in Saddlestring are convinced that Missy shot her husband then arranged to have his body hung from the wind turbine.

Unaware of the drama unfolding in town, Joe’s old friend Nate hides out in the mountains, the unwitting target of meth freaks Johnny and Drennan, hired to kill the Mexican wrangler by Chase Talich, who wants to avenge her dead husband. The long and complex friendship between Joe and Nate is finally cemented after an attempt on Nate’s life goes horribly wrong. Then there’s Missy’s first husband, Bud Longbrake, who has descended into a pathetic alcoholic after the devastating loss of his ranch.

Only Bud can give Joe the answers to Earl’s murder. As Joe tries to fit the case into some kind of logical scenario, he’s blindsided by the disparate parts: the wind project; Bob Lee; the sudden of appearance of Bud Jr.; Sheriff McLanahan, who stubbornly pursues his own theories; and his wife, Marybeth, filled with worry and disappointment over her mother.

In this story about the art of revenge, Box frames his characters around Missy's court case, where she finally must face the consequences of her actions. Vivid descriptions light up the novel: the sagebrush prairie, the gold and gray of Bighorn Mountain, and the turbines facing like giant “foot soldiers” into the teeth of the wind. Joe’s discomfort echoes through this voracious political setting where hunter and hunted are tied to privilege even as indefatigable Nate survives to fight another day.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Michael Leonard, 2011

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