I’ve tried a couple times to get an ARC from the publisher (through NetGalley) for one of this author’s Joe Pickett books. No, they said. Nuh uh. Nada. And then I discovered the series, or most of them, at my local library audiobook section and while some are on a waiting list, I managed to snag these two—back-to-back. Wow—same author, huh? But then I realized these aren’t the same series—not nearly (or the same narrator). And these two are apples and oranges—
Wyoming–the Cowboy State, Equality State and Montana–Big Sky Country
Mountains and treacherous terrain, wild animals, desolation, and weather that can turn on a dime and leave you stranded. Common to both states. So, yes, I loved the descriptions of the locale, especially in Montana, having ridden my motorcycle through Lolo Pass—FUN road! It’s gorgeous up there. And frighteningly isolated. This my introduction to the author, plunked into the middle of both series, found either would work as a standalone as there is enough backstory slipped in to bring you quickly up to speed. However, as with all series, sometimes you can watch the evolution of the character(s) if you go back and start with the first.
Wolf Pack-Book Blurb:
Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett encounters bad behavior on his own turf–only to have the FBI and the DOJ ask him to stand down–in the thrilling new novel from #1 New York Times-bestselling author C.J. Box.
The good news is that Joe Pickett has his job back, after his last adventure in The Disappeared. The bad news is that he’s come to learn that a drone is killing wildlife–and the drone belongs to a mysterious and wealthy man whose son is dating Joe’s own daughter, Lucy.
When Joe tries to lay down the rules for the drone operator, he’s asked by the FBI and the DOJ to stand down, which only makes him more suspicious. Meanwhile, bodies are piling up in and around Joe’s district in shocking numbers. He begins to fear that a pack of four vicious killers working on behalf of the Sinaloa cartel known as the Wolf Pack has arrived. Their target seems to be the mystery man and everyone–including Joe, Nate, and others–who is associated with him.
Teaming up with a female game warden (based on a real person, one of the few female game wardens at work in Wyoming today) to confront these assassins, Joe finds himself in the most violent and dangerous predicament he’s ever faced.
Wolf Pack Review:
Joe Pickett is a Wyoming state game warden and he has his hands full dealing with unmonitored animal traps and drones driving herds of deer and elk to exhaustion, some to death.
In this case, the leg traps have initials on them—duh. Not too difficult then to find the owner and then discovers the drone’s owner as well. Joe has three daughters, the last of which is dating the grandson of the drone’s owner living out on a well fortified and secluded acreage compound.
One of the series main characters, Nate Romanowski is an experienced falconer and it doesn’t take much for the bird to bring down the drone—which doesn’t sit well with the owner. It’s not a pleasant confrontation and when he and Kate (another series regular) tries to corral his activities is brought up short by the FBI. Huh?
You know when the FBI gets involves, the case will go sideways, and it does. When bodies begin to show up, the case goes well beyond animal protection. The Wolf Pack is a far more serious threat than the four-footed fur-bearing animals and it’ll take some work to track them down. Can they really be more cunning than the wolves? Certainly more deadly!
It’s a dark and profane narrative, graphic at times, in a well-plotted novel, fast moving story on a collision course with an explosive conclusion. I won’t even mention the epilogue. I’m not sure I needed that. On the whole, a shocking introduction to the author’s writing style—glad I listened to this audiobook second!
Genre: Murder Thrillers, Suspense
Publisher: Recorded Books
Print Length: 381 pages
Listening Length: 9 hrs, 51 mins
Narrator: David Chandler
Publication Date: March 12, 2019
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Wolf Pack
4.39 average of 1,044 reviews
2019 Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year
A riveting new audiobook from New York Times best-selling and Edgar Award-winning author C. J. Box.
Former police officer Cassie Dewell is trying to start over with her own private investigation firm. Guilty about not seeing her son and exhausted by the nights on stakeout, Cassie is nonetheless managing…until an old friend calls in a favor: She wants Cassie to help exonerate a man accused of assaulting a young girl from an influential family.
Against her own better judgment, Cassie agrees. But out in the Big Sky Country of Montana, twisted family loyalty runs as deep as the ties to the land, and there’s always something more to the story. As Cassie attempts to uncover the truth, she must fight against the ghosts of her own past that threaten to pull her back under.
With The Bitterroots, master storyteller C. J. Box delivers another audiobook featuring fan favorite Cassie Dewell from the Highway Quartet series.
The Bitterroots Review:
My first introduction to this author and the series, Cassie Dewell has separated herself from the police department, going out on her own as a private investigator. She is thinking this will give her some more latitude with her time as Ben, her son, and her hippie mother lives with her in Bozeman, Montana.
Her last case left her with no small amount of PTSD and she still cringes whenever an eighteen-wheeler dusts her doors. She owes one to an attorney friend, so when she calls to pull in the favor, Cassie will grudgingly oblige—against every fiber in her being—the investigation into the rape of a fifteen year old. The attorney is playing defense and wants to know how strong the prosecution’s case is. Of course her client asserts his innocence. A quick perusal of the file has her convinced of his guilt—after all, look at all the evidence!!
But off she goes to Lochsa County to talk to his family and those officials connected with the case. The family appears to have a strangle-hold on their ranch and the area around them, including the officials. I got a strong sense of the more well known male dominated clans—and must say the mother of the girl is one hell of a character. No one wants to talk with her and she’s warned out of there.
In the meantime, her life continues to remain involved in her son’s activities as she continually referees issues between her mother and Ben. And then there is the big black semi who keeps showing up—to just sit and watch. Okay, he’s a creep.
After awhile, I had some sympathetic pangs for the accused and sorry that did not end well. I had a problem with the narrator, more than once, as she attempted different voices—the attorney in particular. And the mother of the victim…the way she handled the voice of the mother going into the conclusion was priceless. Did not see that coming!
Genre: Private Investigator Mysteries, Crime Thrillers, Police Procedurals, Women Sleuths
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Print Length: 307 pages
Listening Length: 9 hrs, 49 mins
Narrator: Christine Delaine
Publication Date: August 13, 2019
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: The Bitterroots –
Cassie Dewell #4, The Highway Quartet #5
4.02 average rating of 729 reviews
These will continue to be similar/dissimilar. While one is a great deal more established, i.e., long term main characters, locale-driven plots, atmospheric fast-paced and graphic (Joe Pickett), the other will build a strong female protagonist, character-driven plots, toned down language (somewhat) and exhibit more feminine issues and concerns. I didn’t care for the epilogue in the Wolf Pack but that same little ploy in The Bitterroots was a classic feminine “gotcha.” Oh, yes, that brought a smile to my face. But you know what? If I get a chance for another audiobook in either series, I’ll grab it.
The Author: C. J. Box is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of 24 novels including the Joe Pickett series. He won the Edgar Alan Poe Award for Best Novel (Blue Heaven, 2009) as well as the Anthony Award, Prix Calibre 38 (France), the Macavity Award, the Gumshoe Award, two Barry Awards, and the 2010 Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association Award for fiction. He was recently awarded the 2016 Western Heritage Award for Literature by the National Cowboy Museum as well as the Spur Award for Best Contemporary Novel by the Western Writers of America in 2017. The novels have been translated into 27 languages.
Box is a Wyoming native and has worked as a ranch hand, surveyor, fishing guide, a small town newspaper reporter and editor, and he co-owns an international tourism marketing firm with his wife Laurie. They have three daughters. An avid outdoorsman, Box has hunted, fished, hiked, ridden, and skied throughout Wyoming and the Mountain West. He served on the Board of Directors for the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo. Box lives in Wyoming.
–from the author’s website
©2020 V Williams