Shadows Reel by C.J. Box picks up where the last book, Dark Sky, left off. There are two parallel stories. The first story involves Joe and his wife librarian Marybeth. Joe, who is the local game warden, is called out to a rancher’s property when the rancher spots what looks like a dead moose across a swamp on the edge of his property. Moose hunting season is over and this could signal poachers hunting out of season. It turns out when Joe investigates, however, that it is really the body of a local fishing guide. Marybeth meanwhile finds that someone donated to the public library a rare Nazi photo album and she wonders how it ended up in Wyoming. The other part of the book involves Nate, Joe’s long time falconer friend, who is on the trail of the person who threatened Liv and Kestrel, Nate’s wife and daughter, and stole Nates falcons. Nate is out for revenge and to get his birds back. Nate teams up with Geronimo Jones, a fellow falconer and Black Lives Matters activist.
There is a lot going on and there is plenty of room for this story to shine, but there were a few aspects of the story that brought me out from enjoying the story and had me questioning it. First, in the story it is Thanksgiving time and the Picket daughters are home for Thanksgiving. When one of the daughters gets home she starts guzzling down beers and two of the girls engage in boisterous wrestling. This behavior seemed out of character.
The second thing that interrupted the story flow was that Nate is chasing the guy who stole his birds and this guy, it turns out, is a big organizer in the Antifa movement. In the story, Antifa and Black Lives Matters are sort of allies in protesting and rioting in the cities Nate travels through. It is revealed in the story that at the top the leaders of Antifa are really out to destabilize the country for their own shady economic ends and the rank and file of Antifa are spoiled rich kids who are duped into helping. This seemed like a trope. Then Nate teams up with a fellow falconer who is black and we get the feeling that perhaps leaders at the top of BLM are misguided, but there are legitimate grievances. Finally, there is in the Joe side of the story great disgust for Nazi’s. C.J. Box has been criticized for interjecting strong political views into his Joe Pickett stories. It seemed like the character’s political opinions about Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and the Nazis were used in the book to show that the characters are morally complex good guys and gals. There isn’t anything wrong with a book’s characters having political views and portraying them in a story and that can be a device the author uses to get reader to reflect on real life issues. For example, Nate’s distrust for authority fits his character well and in earlier books explains his motives and actions. Here, however, it seemed heavy handed. It didn’t help that the two stories ran in parallel and weren’t related.
A positive thing in the story is that Marybeth plays a big role in solving the mystery. In the books Joe has always welcomed his wife’s contributions and it is not a bad thing that she got a chance to shine in Shadows Reel. I listened to the audio version of the book and once again David Chandler did a great job narrating the story.