I’ve enjoyed C.J. Box Joe Pickett books, like the characters, the setting, and the premise for the stories. David Chandler is the narrator of the audio version and hearing his voice is like listening to an old friend. Dark Sky, however, fell a bit flat.
The premise of the story is that Joe is tasked by the Governor with guiding a billionaire social media mogul Steve Price, who everyone calls “Steve-2” as if he has a lot in common with Steve Jobs. Steve-2 wants the authentic experience of shooting his own food, but he brings along a team and tries to post the entire trip to social media, obviously destroying any “authentic” moments. The problem is that Steve-2 has enemies and Joe and Steve-2 become the hunted. Meanwhile, Joe’s friend Nate, who is a falconer, finds that someone has been trapping young falcons nesting in Nate’s territory. Joe’s daughter Sheridan is working for Nate and together they are trying to catch the poachers.
My impression when listening to the book was that the plot was very formulaic and that the story hadn’t received as much smoothing as usual. Why formulaic? Well, we have a Governor Joe doesn’t like requiring him to do a job he doesn’t want to do. Joe gets in trouble and Nate is called in to save the day. That has worked before, but in this case there is no connection between Joe’s predicament and Nate’s. They are totally separate. Then Nate’s story is never finished. The book ends with Nate going looking for the bad falconer, which was not satisfying.
I also think the Box missed opportunities in bringing Sheridan into the story as an adult. We are told that perhaps as a young adult she might want more social interaction than available in the wilds, but we are never shown that. There was not much tension between Sheridan and her parents as she has taken on this job. This was a chance to develop her as a character more and introduce some themes that continue in other stories.
Another thing I noticed was that Box threw in a number of political statements that may or may not have been in character. For example, there is a comment about people in Wyoming having lots of guns and Joe thinks how there is less violence because people know the other guy has one too. However, this comment is coming in a story where everyone is shooting at each other! Oh well.
There were good features of the story though. It didn’t lag. The scenery and chase were well described. Some of the issues of social media platforms not taking responsibility are timely. However, I guess you can tell that Dark Sky was not my favorite Joe Pickett book. I’m more disappointed when a good author doesn’t live up to their previous work.