The Vicious Circle is a story about the cycle of wrong doing, justice, revenge … rinse and repeat. Joe Pickett is a game warden who is a stickler for the law. He is caught up in the circle of violent retribution when a rodeo star he helped put away is released from prison bent on revenge. Everyone in town knows this cowboy is bad news and is anxious to get him off the streets. An acquaintance of Joe’s overhears the cowboy in a bar making plans against Joe and tries to warn Joe, but is murdered. The cowboy is quickly caught with the murder weapon and traces of the victim’s blood in his car and it looks like case solved. However, things aren’t as they seem and there are unseen forces at work. Joe and his family are threatened, one thing after another goes horribly wrong, and Joe must race against time save his family.
The story works as a fast-paced thriller. The stakes quickly escalate and I was anxious to know what would happen next. There are some good plot twists that create mystery and carry the reader along the path of discovery. The Vicious Circle picks up from events in previous stories, but I had no problem following along and the book stood on its own. I listened to the audio version of the book and at first the reader’s tone and cadence got on my nerves, but once the story got going I realized that the reader enhanced the story and it was hard to imagine a better reader.
Upon finishing the book and reflecting back upon it, I felt that there were too many bigger than real elements at work. Too many extraordinary elements make the story unbelievable and diminish the satisfaction at the end. That changes the book from being a good story to being a good “action story,” where the qualification is necessary because the reader had to suspend reality to make the story work. I’ve read a few other Joe Pickett books and this was not the best one. That said, fans of the series will enjoy it.