“Vicious Circle” by C. J. Box is not the usual mystery/thriller novel. It is reminiscent of the classic old-time Western with “High Noon” coming to mind. Besides an intense plot, readers get a flavor for what it is like to live on the Western frontier of Wyoming.
“The way the previous book ended, I knew Dallas and Brenda Cates will be back, because I made sure to set up a dilemma,” Box said. “It has many of the elements of a classic Western. The bad guy gets out of jail and sets out for revenge, making sure it is personal. He attacks Joe’s family forcing him to protect them even if it means not always following the rule of law. He is basically on his own, a ‘he versus the bad guys.’ Most game wardens are like Joe, risking their life working in remote areas, and have little back up.”
This is the sequel to “Endangered” where game warden Joe Pickett went toe-to-toe with the Cates family. Dallas Cates beat Joe’s middle daughter April to an inch of her life. The end result was his mother Brenda becoming a quadriplegic, some Cates family members dead, and Dallas doing more than a year behind bars, thanks in part to some trumped-up charges. After serving his time he is released from prison and wants to get revenge, waging a war against Joe and his family.
What Box does very well is blend the modern day with the isolated West. The book opens with Pickett and two others in a small airplane searching for a missing hunter. They use high technology of an Ipad app, an infrared device to spot both animals and human beings. Right after the group thinks they have found the hunter below on the ground, they witness his shocking murder, all because he warned Joe. Another technology discussed was the wheelchair used by Brenda while in Prison.
As with so many of his books, Box does the research personally.
“I took a ride with the Wyoming Civil Air Patrol,” he said. “It was pretty interesting how they used the technology and unlike Joe I did not even get airsick. Regarding the wheelchair, Georgia Tech came up with the idea of a tongue-controlled device. Depending on how the tongue moves that controls the direction and speed. The brain moves the tongue and the tongue moves the chair.”
Readers of the series will enjoy the supporting characters as well. This includes the return of Pickett’s long-time friend Nate Romanowski, who joins Joe in the fight to save his family, and the newly elected populist Governor Colter Allen. People get a flavor of Wyoming’s politics and how justice is doled out, including a few courtroom scenes.
In addition they learn more about Western culture.
“The scene about women rodeo riders is true,” Box said. “There is a college that does have events with women. Conceivably they can only participate in some contests because they can get really beat up. Women are able to participate in the ones involving finesse, such as barrel racing and roping a cow while riding at full blast.”
This storyline is very suspenseful and the action never slows down. Besides the riveting plot readers will also feel as if they are in the wilderness with the very descriptive scenes.