on 4 April 2012
Yet again CJ Box has proved that Joe and Nate make a double act to rival other great american landscape crime series such as James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux and Clete Purcel.
Starting off with the seemingly indestructible Nate being ambushed, this novel finally lifts the lid on some of the secrets that he has been habouring over the series. The story builds beautifully with a few, not altogether unexpected twists and turns, smoldering to a suitably violent crescendo. This novel concentrates more on Nate that our main hero Joe, but keeps the mythical wilderness of Wyoming as the common denominator and mother nature as the master.
The uncluttered story telling is both evocative and addictive and I was unable to put the book down until finished (yet again). I never thought I would care about a game warden in Wyoming, but this is great crime fiction and I would thoroughly recommend the series to others.
Although a "Joe Pickett" series novel (# 12), Force of Nature is mainly about falconer Nate Romanowski. Nate is Joe's best friend and has been involved in several of the earlier books, a mysterious character with an unknown (but dark) past. Here, readers learn of that past as Nate takes centre stage to resolve his unfinished business. Hence, for readers new to this author, Force of Nature is a good introduction to the series. Regular readers such as myself will, of course, enjoy the book both for its narrative and for the ongoing development of familiar characters.
Nate has for some years lived "under the radar" of society, hiding out in various wild, mountainous areas of the northwestern United States. He is technically a deserter from a special operations unit in the Army. In the opening scenes of Force of Nature, as Nate is flying his falcons, he is asked for help by some local fisherman whose boat is out of control. They attack him, he responds, and once again finds himself on the run. Soon, it becomes apparent to Nate that a figure from his past is behind this and other lethal events. The mystery at the core of Nate's character and way of life, when revealed, explains why violent incidents are occurring, and why Nate has little option in deciding what to do about them.
Joe Pickett is a US game warden in the small Wyoming town of Saddlestring. Although he is Nate's good friend, as a dedicated law-enforcement officer he has always distanced himself from knowing too much about Nate's past and present actions. Here, though, he realises that it isn't that easy to separate friendship from support, and has to make decisions for himself and for his family about whose side he is on, and how far he will go to help his friend.
Force of Nature is, as usual, a highly readable novel in which one just has to keep turning the pages to find out how the action will pan out. Nate has been a rather two-dimensional character in previous novels, mainly because of his mysteriousness and his silent relationship with nature, as well as the focus on Joe and his family. In Force of Nature, he emerges as a more rounded character, and hence the reader is more involved in his past and present predicaments. As usual, the settings are to the fore; one feels one is there in Wyoming, Montana or Idaho as Nate and Joe traverse the mountain trails. I have to admit that I felt a little disappointed that Joe, Marybeth and their three daughters take a back seat in this novel, but I hope that the author will be rectifying that situation soon!
Sadly for me, this new title by CJ was a book that felt like nothing new and whilst I was happy at the return of Romanowski, I felt that the overall plot lacked decent pace, solid arc and felt more like a rushed filler than anything else. Add to this a sadly lacklustre use of prose, a disappointing lack of development and when compared to the previous two offerings, almost felt like a title that was there to allow the author to sit back for breathing space rather than a serious release for the reader.
With luck the next title will pick up and give the readers more of what they want but it is going to have to be something spectacular as this title will, in my opinion, damage the authors writing credibility due to, in my opinion, a fall in standards.
on 29 May 2013
I have really enjoyed the eleven previous Joe Pickett Novels - They have an almost Scandinavian feel to them - where there is a deeper social, economic or, in CJ Box's case, often environmental reason behind the human wrongdoings. Generally CJ lets both sides of the arguments speak and in the end Joe Pickett's sense of decency and determination get to the truth wins out and justice is served. The characters are often better nuanced than other thriller writers with both good points and personality flaws. In the earlier books the family were having real problems in the marriage and with the daughters and dealing with them as best they can. It added to the appeal of a different voice from the hardbitten, alcoholic, womanising loser / loner one dimensional anti heroes of so many others. But the series has gradually lost a lot of that subtlety and moved towards a more libertarian simplistic government is bad / incompetent / corrupt ethos (even though Joe works for them).
One of the other flaws in the previous structures was that the excessively violent Nate (a modern day loner / cowboy character) would appear almost out of nowhere and solve problems usually with olympic standard shooting and some Tarantino type violence.
This novel places Nate as the main character and so loses a lot of the emotional complexity and becomes an old fashioned shoot-em-up in the Wyoming Mountains. It compares the work of military special forces to that of a bird of prey doing what it has to do without mercy or conscience, usually out of a misplaced sense of 'Patriotism' In the end we see what happens when that approach goes wrong, but its solution is more of the same with "good" violent rogue "patriots" killing "bad" violent rogue patriots with both sides using torture and summary execution to further their political aims.
In this novel CJ Box has undoubtedly slipped from his usual high standard but it won't stop me reading the next one in the series either.
on 19 June 2012
I like C.J.Box's writing a great deal and this book is up to his usual standard. However, it falls down on a most improbable storyline about the leader of an elite service unit in the US forces. Nothing strange about that, but then the linkage to falcons and birds of prey and an individual that avoids having any past history that is traceable, begins to wreck Box's excellent work. Picket in Wyoming and adventures such as he has and then being drawn into a world such as this did not go together. As with other authors, we have a villain always one step of his pursuers, brutally ruthless but his demise is simply one of our heroes driving up to him and shooting him; what an anti-climax. Picket and International do not go together.
on 8 May 2012
Perhaps not so much a holding title as a riveting story. I started with several of Box's Joe Picket books which were only 99p, this being one, and found that they were not only good value but a right good read. Box manages to build the story to keep you page turning till the end. Whilst it's not suspense - you find out who the bady is early on but can't work out the hows and wherefors. His description of the mountainous landscape and wildlife is superb and there is just something about Nate Romanowski :-). I had to move on to collect and read the series. There are still more to go as he is a prolific writer.
on 21 August 2014
This was the first Joe Pickett novel I read and, while I can understand that it doesn't exactly fit into the moralising characteristic of the standard Joe Pickett series, I was completely absorbed by the racy, go-for-it character of the main protagonist, Nate Romanowski.
From the first few paragraphs the pace of this book is astonishing and I was caught up in a whirlwind of action and reaction as this master falconer battled his way against what seemed like superior forces to both clear his name and keep his life. Nate's position is very dramatic, in contrast to Joe Pickett whose role here is more of supporting cast but no less valuable and interesting for that. But, at times, there is a serenity about Nate's involvement with nature and the countryside in which he operates that fills one with awe.
By the look of the critics who didn't go overboard about this book, it is the contrast to Joe Pickett's more moral tone that has upset them. But I'd ask the reader of this novel to look further. Nate is a one-off, a seat of the pants character who lives as much by his feelings as through his wits and tends to solve problems by violent action. His 'shoot first, ask questions after' nature is precipitated by his opposition and, as the story unfolds, we find out exactly why his opponents are ganged up against him.
Make no mistake, this is still a Joe Pickett story. In fact I got completely drawn into Joe's domestic and work situation through this novel to the point where I'm going to start at the beginning of the series and work my way through. Joe puts his family and job on the line in this story and, while he doesn't get directly involved in much of the thrills and spills, his part, as Nate's friend and confidant, is woven into Nate's fate in a natural and unforced way.
Despite the thuggish violence and heart-racing thrills and spills of the chase, I found this story uncommonly realistic in the way the characters and the scenes are described. The writing is so vivid that you can practically see what is happening in your mind. In my opinion C.J. Box is one of those rare writers who can combine extreme, action packed scenarios with a calm objective of the world his characters inhabit and he seems able to flesh out how real people would behave when thrust into violent situations. The result is frighteningly believable and page-turningly readable and, as the denouement approached, I could not put this book down but had to race to the end.
If the rest of the books in this series are as well written and as pacy as this one I'm in for a treat with the Joe Pickett novels. I'm very glad I've found this author.
on 23 February 2013
Well after 4 years, that's me finally caught up with Mr Box's Joe Picket (although I do believe another one is due out shortly)! And what an explosive way to end the current crop,
This was more a Nate Romanowski tail than a Joe Pickett tail. Over the last 11 books we have come to not know too much about Nate Romanowski as knowing who he is or what he has done would be more dangerous than stepping into an unprotected nuclear waste site, youd get a fatal overdose of contamination and your life expectancy would be reduced to milliseconds rather than years....
Force of Nature changes all of that and those that know Romanowski are dropping like bugs who've just been sprayed with DDT.
Nate's old bosses in Special Operations have decided that having him still on the loose with the knowledge that he has is just too dangerous, for them, and the only way to remove that danger is to kill him and anyone that he may have confided in, whether they know or not. If they are loosely connected to Nate, they need to die, including the Picketts, all of them.
The best thing Joe can do is stay out of the way, pack up the family and head out of dodge until the smoke clears and the body count can be checked and then to wait and see who survives, although it doesn't look good as Nate explains that the hunter on his tail is even better at hunting and killing people than he is, and we know from past experience that Romanowski is skilled in his craft!
Is everyone we know to be trusted? People we have known for years, newcomers with seemingly impeccable bona fides, who can be trusted, who can't? Box mixes it up here for us and we end up trusting some we shouldn't and doubting others who we should have more sense about and then the final showdown, who survives and who doesn't and the biggest question of them all, does Sheriff Maclanahan get re-elected and I can tell you now, Box has left us to stew over that one, the swine.
Book 1 - Open Season √
Book 2 - Savage Run √
Book 3 - Winterkill √
Book 4 - Trophy Hunt √
Book 5 - Out of Range √
Book 6 - In Plain Sight √
Book 7 - Free Fire √
Book 8 - Blood Trail √
Book 9 - Below Zero √
Book 10 - Nowhere to Run √
Book 11 - Cold Wind √
Book 12 - Force of Nature √
Editing for Kindle /iPad: 5 out of 5
Reading Enjoyment: 5 out of 5
Page length on kindle /iPad: 396
Plot: 5 out of 5
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5
on 31 January 2013
Force of Nature By C J Box
To us city dwellers, one of the most pleasing things C J Box does for us is to whisk us from urban grime into the pristine atmosphere of rural Wyoming. It only takes a few words for us to be standing in a shimmering stream fishing for trout.
"It was late October, one of those wild fall days containing a fifty degree swing from dawn to dusk and Farkus stood mid-thigh in waders in the Twelve Sleep River that coursed through the town of Saddlestring, Wyoming. River cottonwoods were so drunk with colour the leaves hurt his eyes. He'd waded out into the river at mid-morning just as a late-fall Trico hatch created clouds of insects that billowed like terrestrial clouds along the surface of the water. A few trout were rising for them, slurping them down."
But it's not long before the fisherman sees an abandoned drift boat swirling towards him. He stops it, looks over the gunwale and sees blood and death-three corpses with large bullet holes in them.
So away we go on another roller coaster ride of vibrant Box story telling, featuring everyone's favourite hard man, Nate Romanowski, with a falcon on his wrist which can dive at 200 miles an hour to strike a bird in flight like a bullet.
Box knows how to get the best of both worlds, because his hero, Joe Pickett, is a Wyoming game ranger who is a truly good man. He tends to the monosyllabic, with lots of Yeps and Nopes, but he is conscientious to a fault and is a devoted husband and father, but a terrible pistol shot--although he is better with a shotgun."
As he tells someone: "When it comes to folks, I always try to err on the side of goodwill."
But the book's poetic counterpoint is provided by his unlikely friend, Nate Romanowski, "tall and ropy with long limbs and icy blue eyes" who carries a .500 Wyoming Express which is like an artillery piece. Nate was saved by Pickett from a miscarriage of justice and Nate has promised to look after Joe and his family.
It turns out that Nate is a killing machine, trained in a special unit for the American armed forces. But that secret organisation, guilty of awful war crimes, has now been deployed to kill Romanowski because he knows too much.
So we have this engrossing union of two men of conflicting motives and life-attitudes, joined in defence of justice as lethal men invade Joe Pickett's beloved rural paradise to try and execute Joe's friend.
It makes for truly gripping entertainment. Box takes us into an Indian reservation, drawn with his typically crisp but eloquent strokes of his pen. He also depicts the political in-fighting and posturing as an election looms for the job of Sheriff.
I have read just about everything C J Box has written, and I have always been enthralled. And I confess to a twinge of jealousy when I read how he deals with writer's block. He goes to his cabin on the banks of a river in Wyoming and fishes for trout while he gets his mind in gear. -- Prospero
Rating: Five Stars
on 3 May 2012
This is the fourth book I have read by C.J.Box, (it won't be the last). I read before I go to sleep, and I usually finish one chapter at a time, then look forward to the next one. The picture that the author creates make me feel as though I am in the woods or mountains with his characters. I like to see the views through Joe Picketts eyes. Wandering down the trails, tracking through the forest, looking at the mountains, or feeling the cold or the heat of the backwoods of Wyoming . Good story lines, good characters, good reading.