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Long Range: A Joe Pickett Novel


Long Range: A Joe Pickett Novel

LONG RANGE by C. J. Box is an impressive mile marker by any standard. In an era when it is sometimes difficult to find someone who has read 20 books over the course of their adult life, Box has written that many involving the Wyoming game warden (as well as a number of other worthy novels) and created a literary icon in the process, one who is a contemporary Western Everyman. It’s an admirable feat, and this latest entry in the series contains some of his best writing and plotting to date.

The book begins with a minute account of what occurs during the few seconds between the firing of a projectile from a long-range rifle and the moment of impact. The bullet strikes and seriously injures a woman who is in her kitchen preparing dinner. As is clear to the reader immediately and to those in LONG RANGE in due course, the victim, Sue Hewitt, was not the intended target. It was her husband, a Saddlestring, Wyoming judge with a mercurial temper who is extremely unpopular with prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement, defendants and everyone in between. So the number of potential suspects appears to be limitless.

"[T]his fast-moving tale...combines Box’s unique characterization with a couple of puzzling but plausible mysteries that keep readers and our protagonist guessing almost to the last page."

When the shooting occurs, Joe Pickett is hundreds of miles away, involved in the investigation of a hunting guide who was killed by a grizzly bear under suspicious circumstances. However, he is summoned back home by Judge Hewitt to aid Brendan Kapelow, the newly elected county sheriff, in his investigation. Kapelow is afflicted with an extreme case of generalized confirmation bias, which impedes his ability to successfully lead the investigative team. So when Joe is able to prove that Sue was shot by a long-distance sniper, he earns Kapelow’s enmity in spades.

Meanwhile, Joe’s good friend, Nate Romanowski, is attempting to adjust to a dramatic lifestyle change as he lives on the grid, rather than off, with the responsibility of a wife and an infant daughter. He assists Joe in the investigation while being unaware that he has been targeted for revenge by members of the Sinaloa drug cartel.

Joe’s outside problems are relatively minor, though not unimportant. He and his wife, Mary Beth, are dealing with the prospect of being empty nesters for the first time, which may change by the end of this installment if they --- or anyone else --- are able to make it to the end of the book. Not everyone does in this fast-moving tale, which combines Box’s unique characterization with a couple of puzzling but plausible mysteries that keep readers and our protagonist guessing almost to the last page.

The quiet power of Box’s writing is such that it is understandable if one chooses to read LONG RANGE while sitting far away from any windows, given the manner of the attempted attack on Hizzoner in the story’s opening pages. I didn’t, but I still occasionally feel an itch on the back of my neck and head some weeks after reading this new adventure in Joe Pickett’s life. If that isn’t masterful prose, I don’t know what is.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 6, 2020

Long Range: A Joe Pickett Novel
by C. J. Box

  • Publication Date: August 4, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
  • ISBN-10: 0525538267
  • ISBN-13: 9780525538264