Let me preface this post by stating unequivocally that:
I AM THE CJ BOX SUPERFAN!
I have read, at least twice, every readily available CJ Box novel since about 2002 and when I am wealthier I will get my greedy, Miller’s weasel-like, paws on the limited edition stories as well. I regularly send such a huge volume of tweets and forum postings regarding CJ Box’s work that his staff are forced to actually pay attention to them and respond (it would be cool if it were Mr. Box himself, but I am the superfan, not delusional). I own a signed copy of Back of Beyond that is inscribed thus:
“Congrats on your tubular litigation! -CJ Box”
(no, I was not involved in a successful surfing-related lawsuit. I had a “shower” when I got my tubal ligation and the book was a gift. If the rest of womankind can have showers celebrating screaming parasites erupting from their loins, then I can have a tubal ligation shower!)
Any perceived criticism should be taken with a lick of Smoke Van Horn’s salt!
If you are a crybaby about even slight spoilers, do not proceed!
CJ Box’s novels follow Warden Joe Pickett through the wilds of Wyoming (and sometimes Montana and Idaho, places I would like to visit) as he repeatedly “puts his foot in it”, yet somehow manages to solve crimes through set-in-stone principles, stubbornness and very often just plain dumb luck.
While I love to read stories about Joe Pickett, I find myself feeling sorry for his wife Marybeth. As referenced in my previous allusion to him getting his boots into the bear scat; Joe is not a smart man. He may be a good man, but he isn’t too bright. He is lucky he has Marybeth to bring some balance to his constant misadventures.
Joe’s lack of saavy and refusal to play politics frequently lands him in hot water, or worse, while he attempts to uphold the law. His tendency to be the anti-diplomat has seen him given the worst assignments in the entire state, which sometimes severely limits his ability to provide for his family, a source of shame and conflict for Joe the man’s man. Fortunately Marybeth is very clever and capable.
Joe Pickett’s investigations frequently put his family in danger. His daughters have been threatened, kidnapped, and blown up. Marybeth has actually been shot and can have no more children!
While Joe’s work takes him to some amazing places, he seldom gets to share these experiences, or much time at all, with his family. His daughters seem to have grown up in the blink of an eye and he is hardly ever home to share a hot meal with Marybeth. Fortunately his friend Nate Romanowski enjoys Marybeth’s cooking. If all that isn’t enough to convince anybody that Joe Pickett is not a candidate for Husband of the Year then let’s take a closer look at Nate.
Nate is a mysterious falconer with long blond hair and piercing eyes (are they green or blue Mr. Box? I could swear they underwent a color-change in one of the early novels!), who rides a buffalo and open-carries an absolutely gigantic revolver. If that isn’t enough to nominate Nate Romanowski for Most Intriguing Man of the Year; there is a bit in one of the early novels about Nate making love to the first Mrs. Longbrake outside under a tree! That certainly got my attention and Nate continues to pop up naked at unexpected times, much to the discomfort of decidedly-not-Brokeback-Joe, throughout many of the other novels.
However, more interesting than any naughtiness, Nate has a very interesting tactical skill set and a conviction that justice is more important than the letter of the law. Nate does things that goody-two-shoes Joe could never do. If I were married to Joe Pickett I wouldn’t feel free to be so “intrigued” by Nate Romanowski (and fortunately my wonderful husband doesn’t read this blog or feel threatened by fictional falconers).
There I have said what I had to say. If you are not convinced that Nate is titillating and that Joe must have some redeeming qualities (otherwise why would a smart woman like Marybeth put up with him?), then you should immediately go get and read ALL of CJ Box’s Warden Joe Pickett novels. His stand-alone novels are very good as well, should you get tired of Nate popping up nude or Joe trying to figure out how to get back down fudge creek without a paddle.