“Wolf Pack” by C. J Box, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2019, 384 pages, $27

Montana game warden Joe Pickett is back on the job, with his seniority restored. He even has his treasured badge number back.

In “Wolf Pack” by C. J Box, the 19th in the long-running Joe Pickett mystery series, Pickett won his job back, along with his home (Montana game wardens get a house) and his seniority. He was fired for political reasons in the previous Pickett novel.

The book opens with neighboring game warden, Katelyn Hamm, trying to track down a drone operator who has been stampeding mule deer, running them to their deaths. The drone disappeared heading to Pickett’s territory where Pickett is seeking someone setting illegal traps.

The two cases converge, as Hamm discovers, when she contacts Pickett for help. The drone and traps originate at a single compound, isolated and fenced in.

The residents of the compound are contemptuous of the wardens, warning Pickett and Hamm to leave them alone, even after those in the compound admit committing the crimes.

Pickett and Hamm discover the compound’s residents have no history older than the last two years. Additionally, FBI begins running cover for those in the compound.

Two FBI agents from New York City attempt to put Pickett and Hamm in perjury traps to get the game wardens to back off. A further complication: Joe’s youngest daughter has a boyfriend. He’s the son of the drone operator. The mix is made explosive by the arrival of a cartel hit team known as the Wolf Pack.

This book has all the classic elements of a box novel. One of Pickett’s daughters is in danger. The bad guys aren’t just the criminals; the bad guys also include arrogant agents of the federal government (in “Wolf Pack” they confuse and distract attention from the hit team).

Pickett’s buddy, Nate Romanowski, is there to back Joe up (Romanoski is running a falconry business). Plus, the novel has much action and an exciting plot line.

Box fans will not be disappointed by Joe Pickett’s latest adventure. If you seek a fast-paced mystery, you cannot do much better than “Wolf Pack.”

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

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