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In 'Off the Grid,' C.J. Box tackles hot-button issues

Correspondent
C.J. Box the guest of honor at annual Sleuthfest writers conference

'Off the Grid' by C.J. Box. Putnam, 384 pages, $27

Best-seller C.J. Box's finely tuned series about Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett is known for showing how environmental issues not only affect the environment but also people, jobs and lifestyles. Box's impeccable plots are loaded with suspense and realistic characters.

In "Off the Grid," Box goes a bit off the grid himself by tackling the hot-button issue of terrorists and government interference, delivering an evenhanded look that illustrates the perception of a situation isn't always reality. As usual, Box doesn't let his theme bog down a good story. "Off the Grid" is filled with high suspense, formidable characters and an action-packed ending more vivid than most movies. Environmental issues again play a prominent part, as does Box's usual focus on the importance of family.

"Off the Grid" isn't so much Joe's story as it is his friend's, Nate Romanowski, a war veteran, a falconer, a loner who does live off the grid. Nate's extreme skills with a weapon and his ability to survive in just about any circumstance make him the person you want in a bad situation. But Box has never made Nate a "superman," keeping this character realistic. Nate seldom shows his feelings to the world, but he cares deeply about Joe and the game warden's family, and Olivia Brannan, his long-time girlfriend.

Nate has been living off the grid because of some trumped up federal charges. Despite this, Nate is offered a deal by two shadowy federal agents who say they are members of a covert government group called The Wolverines: If they spy on Muhammad "Ibby" Ibraaheem, the son of an ambassador, the charges against Nate and Olivia will disappear.

Ibby, a once promising journalist, also has been living off the grid in Wyoming, and the feds suspect he is organizing a terrorist cell. They believe Nate can connect with Ibby because both are avid falconers. Something certainly is going on when Nate shows up at Ibby's encampment in Wyoming's Red Desert. But he has another surprise when he finds Sheridan Pickett, Joe's oldest daughter, also is there.

Alternating chapters show Nate settling in at the compound and Joe at work, dealing with a rogue grizzly bear and ruthless hunters, as Box brings the two men together in a believable plot.

"Off the Grid" never falters as Box again delivers an exceptional thriller.

Oline H. Cogdill can be reached at olinecog@aol.com.

Meet the author

C.J. Box is the guest of honor discussing the craft of writing during Sleuthfest, the annual writers' conference Feb. 25 to 28 at the Doubletree, Hillsboro Boulevard and Interstate 95, in Deerfield Beach. Box will be joined by Florida honoree P.J. Parrish, and forensics guest of honor Valerie Plame, a former CIA covert operations officer, in addition to about 20 other published authors, agents and editors. For more information, visit sleuthfest.com.

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