Vicious Circle

C.J. Box's Vicious Circle brings back the Saddlestring rodeo star Dallas Cates, who in an earlier Joe Pickett thriller dumped Joe's rodeo-loving daughter April in harm's way, forcing Joe to "go western" on the whole sleazy Cates family. Now Dallas is hell-bent on revenge. Joe, his wife, Marybeth, and their three daughters are in Dallas's crosshairs as he gathers two low-life ex-cons and an axe-wielding tweaker to torment the Picketts. Box's Wyoming is full of shoot-first individualists with little love for Washington (or the local game warden), but Joe is a lousy shot, a careful man and a champion of fair play. His loyal wingman, ex-special forces rifleman Nate, keeps Joe's contact number filed under Dudley Do-Right. But when it comes to kin, Joe holds nothing back.

What sets Box's Pickett series apart is the heavy load of family dynamics. The only guy in a houseful of women, Joe gets his macho posturing knocked down all the time. His attempts to balance nurturing his family while corralling the violent and the corrupt engender a compassionate heart in the not-quite-social Joe. The remote mountain landscape and natural bounty of Twelve Sleep County make for a stunning backdrop to Box's swiftly tangling plots and his sharp eye for little character tells--like the governor's heiress wife who'd "had enough face-tightening medical procedures to appear perpetually astonished." Vicious Circle brings us the comfort of old friends, old enemies and a tasty bunch of new oddballs and losers. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

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