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Shadows Reel: A Joe Pickett Novel


Shadows Reel: A Joe Pickett Novel

With the pandemic behind them, Joe Pickett and his wife, Marybeth, welcome their daughters home from school for Thanksgiving. It is the Wednesday before the holiday weekend, and they look forward to sharing it with Liv Romanowski, the wife of Joe’s longtime friend, Nate, and their new baby, Kestrel.

Nate is on the trail of an outlaw falconer, Alex Soledad, in an effort to retrieve his stolen falcons, which he refers to as his Air Force. Not only are they the source of his livelihood, it was Soledad and his crew who had ambushed Liv, threatened their baby and burned down their cabin before making off with Nate’s rare and valuable falcons while he was away on business.

"C. J. Box is among the finest and most literate authors of modern thrillers. His western lore is authentic, his characters are memorable, and his plots keep you turning pages way past your sleepless bedtime."

Joe is painfully recovering from an encounter with a wolverine and is looking forward to a few days off. But then the phone rings. A neighbor sees what appears to be an animal on fire near a cabin belonging to a local fishing guide. Fire, always a concern in the west, brings Joe out to notify the old man that he’ll be crossing his land. It turns out he’s nowhere to be found, and evidence indicates he may have been tortured. Recognizing a crime scene when he sees one, Joe calls the sheriff. To their horror, when they walk up to the fire, they discover that the animal is actually the missing recluse.

Meanwhile, Marybeth, the town librarian, makes an early stop by her office to clear the decks for the weekend. Still dark as she parks, she spots a man placing a package in front of the library and leaving. This is not unusual as people often drop off books that they’re donating. Inside the package is a photo album. An elaborate medallion with the year 1937 is on the front. As Marybeth turns the pages, she stares at historic snapshots of prominent WWII Nazis, including das fuhrer himself, Adolf Hitler. Another package is dropped off minutes later and promptly collected while she is absorbed at her desk. This is a contribution from a neighbor, who later turns up dead.

Much of the suspenseful plot follows Nate as his search for Soledad widens from Wyoming to Denver, and then to Portland, where an uprising is brewing. It becomes a confrontation between Black Lives Matter, antifa and Soledad’s supporters. It doesn’t seem to be connected to Nate’s falcons, which can be marketed to Arabian millionaires to raise funds for Soledad’s cause. But where is the rare photo album that was expected by Soledad but could be as valuable as Nate’s falcons? It becomes clear that Joe’s family is once again in danger.

C. J. Box imparts an eerie intrigue throughout this haunting novel, weaving in quotes between chapters from William Butler Yeats’ dark poem, “The Second Coming.” It was written in 1919 following the end of World War I and will be familiar to anyone who took a literature class in school. Here’s a sample:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

SHADOWS REEL was mostly likely written following the riots in Minneapolis and Portland at around the time the pandemic broke out. However, current events in Ukraine make Yeats’ poetry seem nearly prescient.

C. J. Box is among the finest and most literate authors of modern thrillers. His western lore is authentic, his characters are memorable, and his plots keep you turning pages way past your sleepless bedtime.

Reviewed by Roz Shea on March 11, 2022

Shadows Reel: A Joe Pickett Novel
by C. J. Box

  • Publication Date: August 2, 2022
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
  • ISBN-10: 0593331281
  • ISBN-13: 9780593331286