The wide open spaces of Wyoming meet the marvels of technology in Box's new thriller, a long range hunter stalking a human instead of game for his kill shot. Judge Hewitt, a well-known Saddlestring official, is the a target of an assassin's bullet, but his sudden movement leaves his wife, Sue, in the crosshairs. Clinging precariously to life, the unintended victim drives her husband on a manhunt, obsessed with finding the would-be assassin. Game warden Joe Pickett is only one of the officials called upon by Judge Hewitt to compile a list of potential suspects.
Things have changed in Saddlestring since a number of people died on the courthouse steps at the hands of a Sinaloa cartel death squad. Though Pickett escaped that attack with his life, as did his professional falconer friend Nate Romanowski, there are rumors that the cartel is set on revenge. Reluctantly rejoining the establishment after years of disaffection with the federal government, Nate has recently begun his falconer business, Yarak, gotten married, and become the proud father of a baby daughter.
His own daughters leading their own lives, the game warden is adjusting to life as an empty-nester with his wife, Marybeth. He is spread thin with current cases, investigating a suspicious bear attack near the Big Horn Mountains when called back to assist in the investigation of the shooter who hit the wrong target. Because of Nate's expertise with firearms, Joe finds the falconer a valuable asset in locating the shooter's kill spot. Still involved in the suspicious bear attack, Pickett is also concerned for Romanowski and his family, especially with persistent rumors of the cartel's return--and this time Nate's is family at risk as well.
While Box has written numerous thrillers with Joe Pickett as protagonist, the wilderness is always a factor, threatened by encroaching civilization and the ceaseless demand for profit. The stark beauty and sometimes brutal reality of the environment sets the mayhem in stark relief against nature's bounty, the relationship between life and death. The wilderness is a striking backdrop for violence. This novel is no different, with dark intentions lurking on the perimeter, the threat of danger in the midst of grandeur, man's need for destruction the dark underbelly of the natural world.
Box is a pro at linking his protagonist, the essential characters in Pickett's life and the game warden's experiences in each thriller, including the frequent arrival of his nightmarish mother-in-law to complicate family matters. Long Range introduces another element: the advances of technology and its potential for good or evil, a new phase to challenge the simplicity of life and bring the outside world to the borders of a state that thrives on the open spaces that separate the caretakers and the despoilers.
Like scenes in a play, each chapter addresses an aspect of the tale, a unique twist to each part of the unfolding drama: Joe and Nate tracking the shooter's choice of location; a solitary camper on a secret mission, reflecting on his life since the deaths of his family by corrupt federales; a woman's decision to ignore her doubts for financial security, regardless of her selfish lover's demands; Nate Romanowski's difficult choices in the face of danger, weighted by the innocent lives now in his care; and Joe Pickett, loyal and resourceful, undertaking difficult assignments, resolute in his responsibility and nobody's fool. The scenes change, the characters, but each new thriller is stitched seamlessly together. Pickett never turns his back on duty.