Stetsons, cowboy boots, horses, and Wyoming aren’t my writing—or reading—style, but the wind turbines section dividers caught my eye when I leafed through Cold Wind by C. J. Box. Awed by the grace of the churning white turbines in the nearby Northern California Altamont Pass wind farm, curiosity about counterparts tied to Joe Pickett, a game warden in Twelve Sleep County, I flipped to the back inside book jacket. Beneath his western-style photo, I read that C. J. Box has won the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity, Gumshoe and Barry mystery awards. That did it. The novel, like an obedient puppy, followed me home.
Not to spoil Cold Wind or give away clues, I’m here to open the skies because you may be so engrossed in the mystery, your head down digging for buried clues, that you don’t look skyward. You might miss this canvas of afternoon clouds painted as “rose-colored bellies lit by the setting sun.” Later in that scene he dabs shades of gray on those clouds with “…lost their light and now looked like heavy clumps of dark steel wool…” Later, in the dark, he paints “a fingernail slice of moon.”
I mentioned that Stetsons and horses aren’t my favorite topics, but I can’t deny my captivation with the author’s details “…he wore a 40x beaver silverbelly short-brimmed Stetson…” and “he threaded his horse up through gnarled bell-shaped stands of juniper…”
A game warden as a protagonist? Joe Pickett’s conversation and actions sketch a man worth knowing. I followed his boots from the time he stepped into his state-issued green Ford Pickup and drove to the murder scene of his mother-in-laws fifth husband until the last page where he pulled his boots off to crawl in bed with his wife Marybeth after he solved the mystery.