“Long Range” by C.J. Box; ©2020, Putnam. 357 pages

———

Someone is out to get you.

There’s a target on your back, a big bull’s eye on your chest, and a dozen possibilities why. Jealousy, for one. Sport, money. Revenge? You don’t know what’s going on, but the fact is that someone’s out to get you — unless, as in “Long Range,” the new novel by C.J. Box, you get them first.

Wyoming Game Warden Joe Pickett hated having to ride a mount he didn’t know.

But there he was, astride a quarter horse named Peaches, three horses behind his friend Mike Martin, and looking for the body of a hunting guide that’d been mauled by a sow bear. At least, that was the story the big-city hunter told.

Joe had big doubts about the far-fetched tale, but it would be awhile before he’d find out the full story. Judge Hewitt called Joe back to Twelve Sleep County for a drop-everything meeting, and Hewitt was serious.

He had reason to make the meeting an emergency: someone had taken a long-distance shot at him and missed. Instead, the bullet slammed into Hewitt’s wife, Sue.

Because of the deaths of several important people in Twelve Sleep County’s law enforcement and judicial offices, solving this crime wouldn’t be easy. Joe missed those folks who died on the courthouse steps not long ago; he didn’t think much of the new Saddlestring Police Chief and he downright disliked the new county sheriff, Brendan Kapelow, who immediately took charge of the investigation. An ex-military, by-the-book, no-emotion man, Kapelow only seemed to want to further himself, politically. Joe hated that.

Far back from Nate Romanowski’s house, a gunman sat, watching. Romanowski had been instrumental in the killing of the gunman’s protege some time before and though Nate worked hard to go straight after a lifetime of dangerous living, that didn’t matter to the gunman. His bosses wanted Romanowski dead.

And in the meantime, someone also had Joe Pickett firmly in their crosshairs...

Ah, you really gotta love a book that starts out on the back of a trail horse, ends with a trailing thread, and slams you around from mesa to hillside to canyon and every which where in between — which is to say, you’re gonna love “Long Range.”

And it’s not just for the scenery, either. Yes, it’s true that author C.J. Box places his story in the wide-open of Wyoming, but that land makes the characters what they are. We know that a city-Joe-Pickett wouldn’t be nearly as grizzled or grounded. We understand that Nate in a suit would be all kinds of wrong. We instantly see that bad-guys like those inside this book don’t belong anywhere else but in an arroyo, rifle in hand. And reading even just a few pages of a Joe Pickett novel makes you see how Box makes that work.

“Long Range” is the latest in a series that goes way back, but don’t let that deter you: you can read this novel first, last or standalone. Just know that you should be out to get it.

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