Shadows Reel by C.J. Box-Book Review by Joseph Snoe

SHADOWS REEL is the twelfth C.J. Box-penned novel (and the ninth in the “Joe Pickett” series) I’ve read. It’s a solid link in the series but I didn’t experience any “Oh wow” moments.

There are two independent story lines, almost like the book alternates between two novellas. One story line centers around Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett and his wife, Marybeth, endangered by two Hungarian fascists. The premise is a local resident leaves a photo album of a high ranking politician in Hitler’s Germany at the local library where Marybeth is head librarian. The two Hungarians (brothers) will do what it takes, including murder, to get that photo album.   

The story occurs over Thanksgiving (which was an unexpected delight for me since I read it over Thanksgiving). To celebrate, Joe and Marybeth’s three daughters join their parents, giving regular readers a chance to catch up on the daughters’ doings. (For newcomers, the Joe Pickett novels follow the daughters from childhood to now being in college (one) or working (two); and often are players in the story lines.)    

The second story line chronicles Joe’s friend’s, Nate Romanowski, quest to retrieve his valuable falcons from the man who stole them from him (Nate, who at one time was not especially law abiding, is now a family man with a thriving bird eradication business using his falcon “Air Force.”) Nate and another falconer named Geronimo Jones track the bad guy from Wyoming to Seattle. Also involved are somewhat incompetent “antifa” protesters (who are portrayed as rich white kids who despise capitalism but freak out when they are separated from their cellphones).

At certain parts of the book, CJ Box reproduces two or three lines from a poem by William Butler Yeats titled “The Second Coming.” My favorite line from the poem is “The best lack all convictions, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” I’m not sure how much the poem excerpts add to the story, but CJ Box obviously thinks they do.

The title of the book, Shadows Reel, is taken from the Yeats poem. I researched what Shadows Reel means, but all I got were references to this novel.

Two characters briefly introduced in the previous Joe Pickett novel, Sheriff Todd Tibbs who came out of retirement for a job he mistakenly thought wouldn’t require much effort on his part, and the new county prosecutor, AnnaBelle Griffith. Annabelle doesn’t do much in the story but Marybeth Pickett likes her, so I assume she’ll be around for a few books at least.

My rating: 4 stars (my feeling the otherwise solid book is two novellas gussied up, with no “wow” moments.)

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