“Shadows Reel” is not the place to start the Joe Pickett series. Never mind that it’s the twenty-second instalment — really, the expanse of a series should never prohibit new readers from jumping into the fray — but C.J. Box’s latest picks up directly from last year’s stellar “Dark Sky,” with Joe’s old pal, master-falconer Nate Romanowski teaming up with Black Lives Matter activist Geronimo Jones to hunt down Axel Soledad, who we last saw beating Nate’s wife, threatening his baby, and stealing his birds.
Jones is an exciting addition to the cast, but there’s an overriding sense that we’ve trodden this narrative track so many times before, in much more exciting ways. It’s kinda paint-by-numbers stuff from Box; solid, efficient action-packed storytelling, but nothing special.
The best thing about “Shadows Reel” is that it reunites the Pickett family for Thanksgiving. The most appealing factor about Box’s long-running series about his Wyoming Game Warden is its focus on family, and it’s fun seeing where Joe and Marybeth’s three daughters are in their lives; we’ve been with them since they were kids. Of course, their plans for a tranquil reunion are spoiled by Joe being called out to the scene of a dead moose — which turns out to be the burned body of a local fishing guide, tortured before he was killed; and Marybeth, the local librarian, has in her possession a Nazi photo album left on the library’s doorstep — and a pair of Hungarian brothers will stop at nothing to get it.
Everything here is sufficiently engaging, but ultimately “Shadows Reel” feels like a pit stop before the next major arc in the series. Box has earned my trust that Pickett’s next outing will deliver more.
Number Of Pages: 400
Published: 1st March 2022