PRONGHORNS OF THE THIRD REICH by C.J. Box would be a noteworthy story even if it were not a part of MysteriousPress.com’s release of a quartet of bibliomysteries, mystery and suspense stories revolving around books. Box sets his latest tale in the familiar environs of his beloved modern-day west, but with an entirely new cast of characters both good and bad.
"[Box's] ability to move readers right along is on full and proud display here, and, as with his novel-length books, the rural western setting that provides the beautiful but often harsh backdrop to his narration is a strong presence."
There are no solid but troubled game wardens involved here. Instead, the story deals with an elderly lawyer named Paul Parker and the wintry morning when one of his past cases abruptly pays him an uncomfortable return visit. The case in question appears in the form of Lyle Peebles, who, with a somewhat reluctant associate named Juan Martinez, comes a-calling to get back that which his family lost to Parker’s client in a trial that occurred several years previously. Peebles is looking for some easy-come money, and believes that Parker is the conduit through which that cash can flow to him. It is a plan that is poorly inspired and badly executed, one that does not provide for likely variables and, even worse, is based upon an incorrect premise.
The treasure that Peebles seeks --- a collection of rare books --- will hardly provide him with the financial liquidity he wants. It seems as if everything cannot help but end badly, and worst of all for Parker, who is as innocent as an attorney can possibly be of any wrongdoing. As events play out against a heavy Plains snowstorm, the strengths and weaknesses of the human condition are on full display. Maybe, just maybe, justice will be done.
Box is better known for his novels featuring Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett, but PRONGHORNS OF THE THIRD REICH will certainly garner him a great deal of well-deserved notice in the area of shorter fiction. His ability to move readers right along is on full and proud display here, and, as with his novel-length books, the rural western setting that provides the beautiful but often harsh backdrop to his narration is a strong presence. Readers will not want to miss this one, whether they are fans of Box or are new to his work.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on November 16, 2012