Last year about this time, I picked up the latest C.J. Box novel and reminded myself how much I enjoyed Box's Joe Pickett series. Cold Wind left me wanting to know more about the mysterious Nate Romanowski....
"The secondary storyline involving Joe's friend Nate Romanowski totally grabbed me. Nate is a master falconer and fugitive. He has gone off the grid and underground in the hills of Wyoming. There are those that want him dead. More Nate please! (Fans of Joe Pike and Jack Reacher would like this character)"
Well, I got my wish.
Force of Nature picks up the story of Nate. Nate knows who's after him - Nemecek - his old commander and falconry mentor from his time in a clandestine special forces unit in '95. Nate has knowledge that Nemecek doesn't want revealed and he'll say and do anything he can to find and kill Nate. Nate goes underground again, but Nemecek has no compunction at 'questioning' those Nate cares about - including the Pickett clan.
Recurring characters return - the incompetent local sheriff, up for re election, the one deputy that Joe does trust, Joe's wife Marybeth, a strong character on her own, and Joe's daughters. I have to say though, I am getting tired of foster daughter April's attitude, despite her personal tragedy. Joe has his hands full with a Luke, a new trainee game warden, as well.
Joe Pickett is a straight talking, stick to your principles, follow the high road kind of man. "But I really do believe there's nothing wrong with doing your best and doing the right thing." But in Force of Nature, Joe is walking a thin line between honouring friendship and respecting the law.
You might be saying how is a game warden involved in hunt for a killer? "We don't have a lot of law enforcement bodies around this county. When something major happens, everybody gets pressed into the effort. Highway patrol, local cops, brand inspectors. And game wardens."
Box writes what he knows - he lives in Wyoming and is an avid outdoorsman. His setting descriptions paint vivid pictures. He's a family man as well and his scenes with Joe, Marybeth and his family all ring true.
Force of Nature does have mystery elements that kept me guessing (who are the moles working with the killer?), but for the most part it is very much action based. I enjoyed getting Nate's back story. The only false note for me was Nate's feelings for Haley, although she was integral to the plot. I thought Box did a great job incorporating falconry and it's imagery into the story. I did find the final reveal of Nemecek's secret a bit anti-climatic, but this in no way detracted from a really good read.
Settling in with the latest C.J. Box novel is like sitting down with an old friend, who has a really great story to tell you. I can't wait for the next installment with the eminently likable Joe Pickett.