Wednesday, July 20, 2022

[Review] - 'Shadows Reel' by C.J. Box

I've seen C.J. Box's novels numerous times in bookstores' bestseller section but was never interested in reading one of his stories until I started watching the Joe Pickett series on Paramount +. The television series debuted exclusively for Spectrum cable services last December. "Exclusively" is used loosely since Paramount + is streaming the show. Paramount Television produces Joe Pickett, so it's a no-brainer why the series is on there. After watching a few episodes, I had the urge to read a Joe Pickett novel, or specifically the first book, Open Season. My first instinct was to check my local library, and there wasn't one single C.J. Box title. There are currently 22 Joe Pickett novels and a short story collection, 5 (soon to be 6) Hoyt/Dewell mysteries, and three standalone novels, all written by C.J. Box, and my library doesn't carry any of them. 

The newest Joe Pickett novel, Shadows Reel, came out in early March from G.P. Putnam's Sons. Besides two dollar stores and a thrift store, the only place that sells books in my town is a worn-out Walmart, which has a bad habit of not stocking its books aisle. March and April releases didn't hit the shelves until late April.

Shadows Reel centers on the adult Pickett daughters (Sheridan, April, and Lucy) returning to a new home for Thanksgiving. In one of the previous, which I haven't read, the Pickett house somehow got destroyed, and now their parents, Joe and Marybeth, live in a brand-new house.

Being a Wyoming game warden means you're on call 24/7, even at Thanksgiving. Joe gets called out for a moose-poaching incident, which leads to him finding the body of a local fishing guide who has been tortured and murdered. Later, Marybeth stumbles upon an unmarked package left at the library containing a WWII Nazi photo album. Without me giving away spoilers, all I will say are the two plots are connected to a much bigger picture.

Meanwhile, Joe's buddy Nate Romanowski is on a quest across state lines to find the man who killed three of his falcons and stole the rest. With the help of fellow falconers, Nate locates the man and, with Joe's help, has a showdown.

Final Thoughts

Jumping head first into the 22nd installment without reading any of the previous Joe Pickett novels was challenging, especially after I had just started watching the television series before cracking open this book. The biggest difference is the Pickett girls' ages. They're under ten years old in the series but are adults in the Shadows Reel, in which they only have small parts in the story.

The book has an A-plot and a B-plot. The A-plot has Joe and Marybeth mixed up in a murder plot that involves a mysterious German photo album. The B-plot centers on Nate Romanowski hunting for the man, Axel, that threatened his family and stole his falcons. Nate's story has to be a continuation of the previous novel, Dark Sky. Right?

I liked about 75% of the story but cringed at the unneeded political messages (Trump conspiracies, BLM, Antifa, etc.). If I wanted to read a book about politics, I would do so on my own terms. The two different plots didn't blend well together. It felt like I was reading separate novellas. The only connection between the stories was Joe coming in at the last minute to save the day.

Overall, Shadows Reel is an uneven, fast-paced read.  

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