Book review: C.J. Box delivers another taut eco-thriller

The 16th outing for Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett takes us into the place where terrorism and government entrapment collide, to brilliant effect

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 April, 2016, 4:37pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 April, 2016, 5:04pm

Off the Grid

by C.J. Box


4.5/5 stars

C.J. Box’s finely tuned, bestselling series about Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett is known for showing how environmental issues not only affect ecology, but also people, jobs and lifestyles. Box’s impeccable plots also are loaded with suspense and realistic characters.

In Off the Grid, Box goes a bit off the grid himself by tackling the hot-button issue of terrorists and government interference, delivering an even-handed look that illustrates how the perception of a situation isn’t always reality. As usual, Box doesn’t let his theme bog down a good story. Off the Grid is filled with high suspense, formidable characters and an action-packed ending more vivid than most movies. Environmental issues again play a prominent part, as does Box’s usual focus on the importance of family.

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Box’s 16th outing with Joe Pickett works well as a tense thriller, a solid western and a family drama while respecting the tenets of each genre.

Off the Grid isn’t so much Joe’s story as it is his friend Nate Romanowski’s – a war veteran, a falconer and a loner who does live off the grid. Nate’s extreme skills with weaponry and his ability to survive in just about any circumstances make him the person you want in a bad situation. But Box has never made Nate invincible, keeping this character realistic. Nate seldom shows his feelings to the world, but he cares deeply about Joe and the game warden’s family, and Olivia Brannan, his long-time girlfriend.

Nate has been living off the grid because of some trumped-up federal charges. Despite this, Nate is offered a deal by two shadowy federal agents who say they are members of a covert government group called The Wolverines: if he spies on Muhammad “Ibby” Ibraaheem, the son of an ambassador, the charges against Nate and Olivia will disappear. Ibby, a once promising journalist, has been living off the grid, too, in Wyoming, and the feds suspect he is organising a terrorist cell. They believe Nate can connect with Ibby because both are avid falconers. Something certainly is going on when Nate shows up at Ibby’s encampment in Wyoming’s Red Desert. But he has another surprise when he finds Sheridan Pickett, Joe’s oldest daughter, also is there.

Alternating chapters show Nate settling in at the compound and Joe at work, dealing with a rogue grizzly bear and ruthless hunters, as Box brings the two men together in a believable plot.

Off the Grid never falters as Box again delivers an exceptional thriller.

Tribune News Service