I returned for my fourth visit with Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett to find that he's has gone all Mulder and Scully on me. Within the first few pages mutilated animals possibly dropped from the sky. From there, things got weirder and bloodier, with people being added to the casualties.
Still, I was visiting with Joe Pickett so at least I knew I'll have an explanation by the end of the book that doesn't include alien probes in uncomfortable places.
C. J. Box's novels are a comfort read for me. I love his ability to take me to the wilds of Wyoming and feel like I'm there and seeing it through the eyes of someone who loves and understands it. I also like meeting up again with the ensemble cast of good guys, not-so-good guys, weird guys and strong women, centred around Joe, his wife and his two young daughters. As the books progress there people and the relationships between them have grown in believable non-soap-opera ways.
"Trophy Hunt" has a rich mix of land-grabbing realtors, energy companies competing for mineral rights, cattle mutilations, crop circles and uninvited UFO experts. Joe is reluctantly in the middle of everything by virtue of having found the first mutilation, knowing many of the players, distrusting the sheriff and being nominated by his boss to take part in a Task Force.
The Task Force opens part two of this slightly-darker-than-usual mystery with this speech:
“GENTLEMEN,” COUNTY ATTORNEY Robey Hersig said, “let’s convene the first-ever strategy meeting of the newly formed Northern Wyoming Murder and Mutilations Task Force.”
Sheriff Barnum said, “Jesus, I hate that name.”
This manages to get across the pomposity of big-boys playing you're-in-MY-gang-now, the gallows humour needed to survive dealing daily with the atrocious and how people who've been there too many times before react in reality.
I liked the tension in this book and the development of Joe's wife as a key actor in the story. The plot was complicated without becoming labyrinthine. The violence was graphic but mostly off-stage and the whole thing was dappled with humour and great scenery.
Joe is the rock around which this river of chaos flows. Sometimes I felt like I wanted him to be a little less static but then I recognised he'd stop being Joe. I love his dogged pragmatism. Watching him examine and discredit an alleged crop circle was a delight.