Review: Cold Wind by C.J.Box

Format: Hardcover
Pub Date: March 22, 2011
Publisher: Putnam (Penguin)
FTC: Review copy received from the publisher

The Blurb:
When Earl Alden is found dead, dangling from a wind turbine, it's his wife, Missy, who is arrested. Unfortunately for Joe Pickett, Missy is his mother-in- law, a woman he dislikes heartily, and now he doesn't know what to do-especially when the early signs point to her being guilty as sin.

But then things happen to make Joe wonder: Is Earl's death what it appears to be? Is Missy being set up? He has the county DA and sheriff on one side, his wife on the other, his estranged friend Nate on a lethal mission of his own, and some powerful interests breathing down his neck. Whichever way this goes . . . it's not going to be good.

I've been out of the mainstream mystery scene for a few years (sticking mainly to romantic suspense or cozies). Which means I wasn't really familiar with C.J. Box. After finishing Cold Wind, though, I know I've been missing out.

Set in Wyoming, Cold Wind continues the Joe Pickett mystery series about a Wyoming game warden. Although clearly part of a larger series, the story is fine as a stand-alone mystery.

The characters, even the secondary ones, are all expertly developed, but the star of this book was the landscape. Without resorting to flowery, excessive descriptions, Box conveyed the personality of the Wyoming environment in a way that resonated with me.

Fans of the all-but-gone Western genre can find new hope in CJ Box's Joe Pickett series. While still a contemporary mystery, it shares much of the same sensibility found in those books. The sense of place, the notions of justice, personal honor. Joe Pickett and his friend Nate are two versions of  classic Western protagonists: the lone lawman, and the not-quite-civilized vigilante.

This story had so many twists and turns—especially near the end—that I was taken by surprise. And I normally figure out "whodunnit" quite easily. I might have to find an audio version to see if my husband AKA "he who figures out every mystery by 1/3 the way through" can guess the ending.

As primarily a romance reader, I really enjoyed the glimpses we are given of Joe's relationship with his wife. The affection, everyday frustrations, and nuanced conversations all felt authentic. And I absolutely adored the small flashes of unexpected humor in the book.

The only thing that detracted from this otherwise stellar read for me was the sequel baiting involving Nate (a secondary character) and the too tidy confrontation at the very end.

My Grade: A-

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