Book Review: “Savage Run” by C.J. Box


savage run

Genre: Mystery

3.5-Watertowers TracyReaderDad Book Reviews

“But this is how they do it. They go after the weakest first. When the mother stays back, the wolves open a hole in her belly and pull out the entrails. Then they wait until she doesn’t have the strength to protect herself, then they’ll move in and tear her throat out.”

C.J. Box does not mince words. Nature can be brutal as well as stunningly beautiful.

Two years have passed since we last met up with Saddlestring, Wyoming Game Warden (and Wildlife Biologist), Joe Pickett and his family. In “Savage Run”, famous environmental “terrorist” Stewie Woods and his wife are blown up by a cow. Joe is called to investigate and from that auspicious start “Savage Run” builds the brutality, tension, and mystery in a thoroughly enjoyable book filled with wilderness reality.

Joe Pickett is not perfect. He has a tendency to trust people more than he should, and to go places alone where backup help would be needed. He is honest to the point of detriment to his own career (hmmm, this is a good thing really). During the investigation, Joe meets with the owner of the cow (actually 10 cows were killed in the explosion) at this person’s home. Oddly, the owner, Jim Finotta does not seem surprised nor does he ask the questions one would expect from someone who is concerned about the death of other human beings or animals. In addition, Jim, a lawyer, puts Joe on the defensive. Not a good thing to do, especially if you have the head of a large male elk mounted on your wall, that the Game Warden recognizes, and knows was killed off-season.

A mini-battle begins between dirt poor Joe and the all powerful Finotta.

Killers Charles Tibbs (the best tracker in Wyoming) and the” Old Man” leave Wyoming after ensuring that the exploding cow did what they intended (i.e. make for an embarrassing death for Stewie) for Washington State. There they murder famous environmental writer, Hayden Powell. These two are then responsible for a string of brutal environmentalist murders that follow. This has the makings of an old-fashioned range war. And the reader finds out that it is and that a group called the “Stockman’s Trust” hired the old west throwback stock detective (Charles) to take care of business.

Circumstances bring the killers, Joe Pickett, and several others together as the book climaxes with a chase through the deepest wilderness to the impassable (except by, according to legend, Cheyenne’s fleeing for their lives over 100 years ago) canyon known as Savage Run.

“Savage Run” is sometimes brutal, sometimes beautiful, sometimes controversial as it straddles the worlds of game wardens, ranchers, landowners, and environmentalists. C.J. Box is fast becoming one of my favorite authors and I am looking forward to the next Joe Pickett adventure. In the meantime, pick up “Savage Run” if for nothing else, to read the explosive ending.

Here is a web site about famous stock detective mentioned in this book, Tom Horn:


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