C.J. Box’s latest, Stone Cold, a Joe Pickett novel, will definitely become a “mega country hit.”
His books based in Wyoming have the flavor of a modern day Western, where the setting becomes almost a character in itself. Box’s novels always include two plots: one involving Pickett’s family and the other, a story of adventure, with some political intrigue and culture from that part of the US.
Although the Joe Pickett novels are a series, each individual book is a stand alone, due in large part to Box’s writing style. Stone Cold has two intertwining plots, one involving Pickett’s college age daughter and the other a murder for hire company, based in Wyoming’s Black Hills. Each piece of the story goes beyond the “who done it,” allowing the reader to question modern day issues.
The family story has Pickett’s older daughter, Sheridan, worried about a fellow dorm student at the University of Wyoming who appears to have a mass shooter type personality. Box explores the issue of the 2nd Amendment on college campuses, such as, whether colleges should be gun free zones, or should college students shave the freedom to carry a weapon. He told blackfive.net, “What I put in the book is really happening in Wyoming where students can have up to three guns, but not in their dorm room. They need to store it with the UW Police Department. Times have obviously changed since when I was younger I had a rifle in my high school locker for finding prairie dogs. In my college days we would have our guns to go hunting. I am a big 2nd Amendment supporter but I wanted my readers to question the issue of allowing guns in dorm rooms. I remember my college days where we twenty-one year old boys would get all liquored up. I am not so sure it is a good idea to have a gun then. I go back and forth, but I do think what is being done today is a fair compromise.”
The other plot has Joe traveling to Wyoming’s Medicine Wheel County to investigate the shady dealing of a wealthy landowner, Wolfgang Templeton who owns the county, land, people, and law. The issue focuses on being above the law for righteous reasons. Box gets the point across through his characters: Joe tends to bend the rules while Nate Romanowski goes against the rules. For those who have not read any past books, Nate is the antithesis of Joe, a loner who lives in the woods with his falcons. This plot brings back “Frontier Justice,” since Nate rights a wrong against those morally degenerate elitists who are untouchable in society. The other issue examined is the idea of handouts and the dependency it can cause among the people.
Box commented, “There is the perception in this country that some bad people are untouchable because they are part of the elite and part of the system. This is something Templeton and Nate address since they go after people that cannot be touched in any way due to their connections. Regarding the other issue, Templeton, to gain control, established in this county handouts to take care of everybody and bring the people on his side. Yet, they want more and more from him. This shows how the county people became dependent, unhappy, and is always asking for more and more. Both Templeton and the county people become hostages to each other.”
The reader should be aware that although the main plot comes to an ending the side plots are left up in the air, which is Box’s style. He always leaves certain threads that run through the series that don’t have a definitive conclusion, and resume in future books.
He also gave a heads up about his next book, which will also include Nate. The plots will include Joe’s daughter April’s disappearance that will be intertwined with a plot surrounding endangered species and the effect it has on energy development.
Wyoming citizen, the former Second Lady of the US, Lynne Cheney told blackfive.net, “I love Box’s novels. His realistic plots yield plenty of surprises, and his characters are fabulous, especially Joe Pickett. And all of this is set against an evocative Wyoming background that he draws perfectly. There is never a false note to break the spell. I hope Box keeps writing for many years to come.”
Stone Cold has non-stop action with captivating characters. The plots are thought provoking, suspenseful, and compelling. These western tale books are a welcome difference from other crime novels and should be on any readers’ list that wants a thrilling mystery.