Published by Corvus £7.99
I have to confess I was more than a little cautious at approaching this new author (to me) as the whole concept of a series of crime novels set in Wyoming and centring on a Game Warden really didn’t appeal to me as a concept.
If I’m really honest, and I can’t see any reason why I shouldn’t be, every publicity shot of the author proudly sporting a large cowboy hat also had my guard up – just how could anything this guy writes compete with my current crime favourites, both in terms of their central character and the fact that I’d feel comfortable at the bar with all my regular reads at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival later this year?
I am very ashamed of my stereotypical pre-conceptions and will never again do, as I did here, judge a book by its cover and an author by their press launch photo and material alone. The first novel I read by C.J.Box has put me firmly in my place and now deserves shelf space at my home, along with space for all of his others if this first read was anything to gauge them by.
I am not ashamed to admit I was wrong, very wrong and that Michael Connelly’s quote on the cover of SAVAGE RUN is bang on the money ‘An original voice…fresh, captivating’.
For anyone discovering C.J.Box this year, there is an absolute treat in store with, as far as I am aware, an unprecedented monthly launch of books by him for the whole of 2011, so new readers get a new C.J.Box to read every four weeks!
For me, I’ve jumped in with March’s book (which is the second in the series to feature regular character, Game Warden Joe Pickett, as January’s book was a standalone Blue Heaven – which I rushed out to purchase soon after starting Savage Run) and found no issue at all with missing out the first series book, Open Season.
There really isn’t much time to waste with Savage Run, kicking off in a literally explosive fashion when an eco –activist, Stewie Woods and his new bride are apparently blown sky high by somebody rigging cattle with explosives! Now there’s something you don’t get every day or in many crime novels – a truly inspired bit of weaponry.
It’s not long before our hero, Joe Pickett, takes up the case, following the trail of other activists who also appear to have been targeted by a sinister couple of hired killers who seem to stop at nothing to hit everyone on the list they have been issued with by a mysterious group known as ‘The Stockman’s Trust.
There is a great humanity to Joe and his family, and I love the fact that he is certainly not your typical thriller hero, he is very fallible and as such, the outcome of each and every step of the investigation and subsequent hunt and chase remain unpredictable and keep the pages turning.
When Joe’s wife, Marybeth, begins to receive telephone calls from a man claiming to be Stewie Woods and she reveals to Joe that she used to spend time with him before they met, the dynamic changes and the mystery just grows further still.
With Joe becoming responsible for the safe passage of others through a perilous gorge known as Savage Run, the tension racks up further and I felt we were then into David Morrell’s First Blood territory with a deadly killer hunting our hero through the landscape.
Absolutely pistol whipping action throughout, C.J.Box has deservedly earned some serious shelf-space in my home and I very much look forward to meeting and hopefully sharing a beer with him during his tour of the UK this July.
Keith B Walters