Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Review of "Vicious Circle" by C.J. Box


Joe Pickett is a Wyoming Game Warden who's very good at catching wrongdoers in his district, Twelve Sleep County, a sprawling region of forests, mountains, rivers, and so on. Twelve Sleep County seems to be chock full of miscreants who have a grudge against Joe.....and are prone to target the warden AND his family: wife Marybeth and daughters Sheridan, April, and Lucy.

In this 17th book in the series, Joe is in the sights of former rodeo star Dallas Cates, who just got out of prison. Joe has a long history with the Cates family, all of whom are violent sociopaths. Joe's previous altercations with the Cates crew resulted in the death of Dallas's father and two brothers and the crippling of his (now imprisoned) Dallas is out for revenge.

Toward this end Dallas puts together a gang composed of himself, two ex-cons, and a meth-addicted woman. The gang saunters into Stockman's Bar for drinks and, while there, quietly discuss their heinous plans. Joe's acquaintance, Dave Farkus, happens to overhear the thugs and leaves a phone message warning Joe of a dire threat to his family. Farkus then goes on a hunting trip and ends up shot to death.....apparently by Dallas Cates and his buddies. Moreover, the bartender at Stockman's, Wanda Stacy, disppears.

Dallas is arrested for Farkus's murder, and hires defense attorney Marcus Hand - a high-priced legal shark who rarely loses - to defend him. In the courtroom, Hand accuses Undersheriff Lester Spivak of shenanigans with the evidence, and Cates is soon out of jail. With Cates on the loose, Joe and his family are in serious peril.

In an ironic touch, lawyer Hand's new wife is Joe's mother-in-law, Missy - a vain, self-centered golddigger with a nasty streak. Missy hates Joe, and is constantly trying to get her daughter, Marybeth, to leave him. (Missy is so over-the-top that's she's almost a comic character.)

A lot of the book involves the unsavory behavior of Dallas and his co-horts, including his jailed mother Brenda. There are some clever surprises as Joe susses out exactly what's going on, and tries to get justice for the gang's victims.

Joe's not all alone in his fight against the killers. The game warden gets some help from his notorious friend Nate Romanowski - a former special ops agent who's the cleverest, most capable, and toughest outdoorsman in the country. (Nate - who's a sort of 'Jack Reacher of the mountains' - is one of my favorite characters in the series. LOL)

In the midst of Joe's struggles with Dallas and his hooligans, some local poachers are targeting non-trophy animals. The hunters attack at random locations every few days, making it hard for the wildlife cops to catch them. In addition, Joe is approached by Wyoming's new governor, Colter Allen, who mentions Joe's 'special assignments' for the previous governor - and asks for similar favors. In Governor Allen's case, though, the requests are overtly self-serving and political. Will Joe comply? You'll have to read the book to find out.

The book has an interesting plot, but has less action and more talk than previous entries in the series - which makes the story feel a little slow. This isn't a major flaw though, and there IS plenty of excitement.

I'd recommend the book to readers who enjoy action thrillers, especially fans of the Joe Pickett series.

Rating: 3 stars


  1. This book looks like something I would throughly enjoy! Great review! :)

    - El @ El's Book Reviews

  2. Thank you El! The Joe Pickett books are all pretty good. :)