The prolific C.J. Box returns with another winner in the Joe Pickett series. The Wyoming game warden continues to suffer the consequences of his last encounter with lawbreakers, death and destruction leaving his family without a home. Currently the family is living in a townhouse, anxious to move into a new place. Homelessness is not the only change in Joe's life. While Pickett had a special relationship with the former governor, occasionally investigating difficult situations when called upon, the new governor has made some assumptions. Although Joe would prefer to have few contacts with Governor Allen, that's not in the cards.
Governor Allen has decided he wants Pickett to do his bidding just as he did for Governor Rulan. He sends Pickett to the North Platte Upper River Valley to quietly investigate the disappearance of a British executive, Kate Shelford-Longden, who has not been seen since she finished her vacation at the exclusive Silver Creek Ranch. It's not uncommon for well-to-do females to enjoy the "amenities" provided by such luxurious places, but months have passed without the lady in question resurfacing. Pressured by the British Embassy, Allen needs Pickett to find out what has happened to the missing vacationer. The only upside is an opportunity to spend some time with his oldest daughter, Sheridan, who is working at the ranch.
Ready to tackle the mystery of "Cowgirl Kate," Joe is surprised when his friend Nate Romanowski needs his help as well. A falconer, Nate wonders why the feds have made it difficult for falconers to hunt with eagles, withholding license approval without explanation. Navigating the Silver Creek Ranch and surrounding territory, Joe has questions about the odors coming from a burner at a nearby lumber mill, the scent redolent of incinerated flesh. It's wild open country that is home to a new enterprise, the Buckbrush Wind Energy Project. Windfarms are planting roots in formerly pristine land. As things evolve, Joe is able to mix his investigation for the missing woman with Nate's request, addressing both problems on his list, especially with Sheridan's help.
Pickett is a memorable character, a family man with the heart of a game warden, seeking out miscreants--and, in this case a missing Brit--while attending to his job: the protection of nature against those who would plunder her bounty. His bevy of daughters and a helpful wife often fit into the various scenarios Box imagines. Pickett's hateful mother-in-law, who has a habit of intruding into his life, still hopes her daughter will see the error of her ways and leave Joe. Even in this mystery, where Pickett is determined to locate the missing executive (hopefully alive), the mother-in-law leaves incriminating fingerprints.
I anticipate each new C.J. Box story featuring Joe Pickett. There's a wonderful balance between man and nature in this series, the usual criminal enterprises set against nature's bounty. Pickett is devoted to protecting his turf against despoilers, keeping people in check when necessary, a guide to the vast acres of Wyoming and the surrounding landscape. The Disappeared is no exception; it won't end without the missing "Cowgirl Kate" mystery answered, or an explanation for Nate's dilemma about hunting with eagles. In fact, this thriller reveals a worrisome intrusion on this precious land. As always, Pickett travels the rocky terrain of environmental protection and peaceful habitation with an eye to correcting the balance between those who love the land and those with bad intentions.