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by C.J. BOX
G.P. Putnam's Sons, March 2018
400 pages
ISBN: 0399176624

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Joe Pickett is on assignment for Governor Allen, and he's finding that "not doing politics" is not an option. Allen doesn't seem to have ethics as a part of his vocabulary, instead focusing on money, political backscratching and backstabbing, and image rather than substance. It's winter in Wyoming, and Allen has demanded that Joe head down to Saratoga to look for a British woman who went missing from a ranch resort during the past tourist season. After being reminded of who is the governor and who is the game warden, Joe reluctantly accepts.

The positive side to this assignment is that Joe's daughter, Sheridan, works at the ranch so he'll have the opportunity to check in with her. And she may even be able to provide some valuable background. Just as Joe is leaving for Saratoga, his friend Nate Romanowski shows up with a falconry complaint, so Nate brings his big gun and conspiracy theories along for the ride. Once in Saratoga, Joe and Nate find wide-ranging connections among local thugs, drug trafficking, the construction of a huge windmill farm, the rapid departure of the previous game warden, big money political donors, falconry, and yes, even the missing British woman. The plot complications strain credulity, but in the end Box ties everything but the politics together in a neat package.

As always, Box brings us fully realized characters both in Pickett and the other sympathetic characters and in the nasty politicians and others with ignoble motivations and behaviors. We can see how money corrupts those at all levels of society, and we can only hope that those with less selfish motivations may prevail. There are enough parallels between the way that Governor Allen runs his state and the way that the U.S. national political scene is playing out that one has to wonder if Box's intention was to subtly lampoon the current situation. Regardless of whether there is more going on behind the scenes, the personal relationships play important roles in the book. Sheridan and Joe discover how to relate to each other now that Sheridan is an adult. Nate and Joe dance around Nate's less than law-abiding perspective. Joe and his wife work together from a distance to figure out how to withstand the dangers to their family's wellbeing that Governor Allen throws their way.

Throughout the book, the landscape and the weather are the subject of some of Box's best writing. The bitter cold, driven forward by biting winds across vast spaces, adds to the sense of danger with a reality that not even a gun possesses. The intense nature of the events taking place in and around Saratoga in THE DISAPPEARED make sense in a way that they could not in any other locale. Wyoming is a place of extremes, and it is for the joy of being there that I anxiously await each new book in the series.

Sharon Mensing, retired educational leader, lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors in rural Wyoming.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, March 2018

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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