Off the Grid
C.J. Box
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Buy *Off the Grid (A Joe Pickett Novel)* by C.J. Boxonline

Off the Grid (A Joe Pickett Novel)
C.J. Box
384 pages
March 2016
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Familiar characters come together in Off the Grid as Box thrusts both Nate Romanowski and Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett into a scenario that plays out in the parched terrain of the Red Desert, old feuds clashing with modern-day political reality under the broad blue sky. Romanowski has been off the grid since his last tussle with the Feds, but then everyone in the Red Desert is essentially off the grid.

Nate watches his lover, Olivia Brannan, drive away from the ranch where they’ve lived in grateful anonymity, her mother’s illness requiring a personal visit. An avid falconer, Nate is left with his birds for company--until two strangers drive up with the unhappy ranch owner. Looking suspiciously like that particular breed of official generated by the federal government, the men propose Nate assist them in a mission, with the promise of clearing the record that has forced Romanowski to live without any identity that can be tracked. It seems that journalist Muhammed Ibraaheem (“Ibby”) has set up a secret camp in the Red Desert; the strangers want to know Ibby’s intentions. And since Ibby is also a falconer, the agents (who call their organization the Peregrines) assume the two men will have something in common. His anonymity already compromised, Nate decides to cooperate, at least until he learns what is really going on.

Back in Stringsaddle, Warden Joe Pickett answers an emergency call to assess an “incident” between a human and a grizzly. Tagged with a GPS locater, the grizzly is being tracked by a carnivore biologist when the paths of hunter and bear intersect. With hunting season about to start, a killer grizzly is a serious problem, one that eventually points Joe, following Governor Spencer Rulon’s orders, toward the Red Desert, unaware that Romanowski is also headed to the same location. For Pickett, it’s business as usual, for Nate, the expected complications of a duplicitous government agency using Special Forces trained soldier to infiltrate the camp of a charismatic journalist of Middle Eastern descent and discover if he is friend or foe.

In true Box form, nothing is what it seems, the most innocent of intentions often riddled with counterintuitive actions and unscrupulous players, this time with an added threat of terrorism. Two popular protagonists are on parallel, albeit different missions: Nate engaged in an investigation with the potential to turn deadly; Joe walking into the middle of a nefarious plot with far-reaching consequences while on assignment for the governor. The vast landscape of the Red Desert is suddenly alive with people, from dedicated followers of a man who loves this country to idealistic volunteers striking a blow for American values, from a game warden far from home without a vehicle or water to the sly betrayer of a true believer and his acolytes.

The inevitable denouement is complicated, dangerous and rife with plot twists, the red desert sand roiled by speeding trucks filled with gun-toting men and the exodus of terrified innocents fleeing for their lives. Separated for the last few years to protect themselves from government retribution, Joe Pickett and Nate Romanowski are finally in the same place, if unaware of that proximity until each is trapped in a rain of bullets. The action continues to the last minute, one nightmare finally put to rest, another challenge already on the horizon.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2016

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