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September 19, 2021

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Icon book review: Dark Sky

Review by Robert McCool

With the release of 2021's New York Time's best-selling novel, "Dark Sky" (G.P. Putnam ISBN-13-978-1-4328-8563-2) C.J. Box ("Open Season", "Long Range") increases his count of "Joe Pickett" books to a truly binge-worthy twenty-one.

Joe Pickett is a Wyoming Fish and Game Warden who has become the Governor's personal range-rider, selected to carryout the politician's special projects. This time, Joe's been selected to guide an instant CEO Silicon-Valley billionaire on an elk hunting trip with the idea that the client will build a huge computer server installation in the governor's state. Intensely followed on the Internet Tech Baron/ autocrat/ CEO, "Steve-2" (Steve Jobs was his Steve-1) wants to know what's it like to hunt with a bow, kill, and eat where his food comes from. But with conditions. He's bringing a documentary crew to film the experience for his followers, and bringing all the necessary, and heavy equipment- supposedly to be carried on horse back. He also is insistent about not allowing guns on the expedition. Joe knows that he's not going to put his charges, or his horses in danger where bear sightings are now common, so he keeps his ever-trusty shotgun with him. And bear spray.

In vivid, spare prose C.J. Box creates the Big Sky country as if it were another passenger riding along with you and his characters. The beauty of the mountains takes you there along with them.

Unfortunately, someone from Joe's past decides to track the group; a man-hunter driven by the desire to settle up with Joe on a permanent basis. And then it starts to snow. Then one by one the crew is killed, leaving Steve-2's mortal safety in Joe's hands, and his alone.

Needless to say, Joe and his charge go through hell in order to stay alive. His best friend, Nate Romanowski and his eldest daughter Sheridan show up at the end to offer support. Nate, with the biggest caliber handgun manufactured, evens up the odds and takes the killer out of your tension filled mental picture in a bracing showdown.

Steve would never had lived on his own without Joe's guidance, and when the cell-phone lost its signal that's all he has to depend on, like a child alone in the worst that nature and man have to offer.

Sure, this novel has a message in it. And Joe Pickett lives in it everyday. We should remember that message; the natural world is filled with wonders that can't be captured on a screen.