Dark Sky (A Joe Pickett Novel) - book cover
Thrillers & Suspense
  • Publisher : G.P. Putnam's Sons
  • Published : 25 Jan 2022
  • Pages : 384
  • ISBN-10 : 0525538291
  • ISBN-13 : 9780525538295
  • Language : English

Dark Sky (A Joe Pickett Novel)

Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett must accompany a Silicon Valley CEO on a hunting trip--but soon learns that he himself may be the hunted--in the thrilling new novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author C. J. Box.

The governor of Wyoming gives Joe the thankless assignment of taking a tech baron on an elk-hunting trip. Unbeknownst to them, as they trek farther into the wilderness, a manhunter is hot on their heels. Finding himself without a weapon, a horse, or a way to communicate, Joe must rely on his wits and his knowledge of the outdoors to protect himself and his charge. Meanwhile, when Joe's closest friend, Nate Romanowski, and his own daughter Sheridan learn of the threat to his life, they follow him into the woods to try and rescue him before it's too late.

Editorial Reviews

"A suspenseful, action-packed yarn set in the vividly described wilderness."--Associated Press

"Well-paced....another page-turner for Box, who writes lyrically about big sky country."--Publishers Weekly

"A strong entry in this long-running and wildly popular series. Box's novels have been translated into 27 languages and regularly appear on best-seller lists, a testament to the strength of his writing and the popularity of the melding of western and crime genres."--Booklist

Readers Top Reviews

Nick ShortlandSil
CJ Box writes a good book. He always did. However I was not impressed with his political beliefs intruding into the story. This was always tightly controlled up to now with just general distrust of Federal agencies (other than Joe's by and large) being part of the background. In this book there is much more explicit mention of Trump Republican views and Antifa. It would have been better to skirt around this. After all, it potentially alienates roughly half of the US readership. Other than that the book is beautifully descriptive of Wyoming, of wildlife, and of the rural way of life. His plot is pretty good for number 21 in the series.
AJBNick Shortland
This starts out a bit too MAGA for my taste, all the stuff about the bad falconer attending antifa rallies and quite a lot more preachy than usual about how guns are good. I can usually tolerate the guns are good stuff but in conjunction with the references to Antifa it’s a bit too political. C’mon, CJ, you never had politics threaded in with Joe and Nate so much before. And, there is a lot of background narration at the start, the synopsis of Nate’s story, very clunky. Lockdown must have got to you, even in Wyoming. I eagerly awaited this one, coming to it after a long stint of William Kent Krueger, and so I now have a more direct point of comparison. This book did improve, especially on the Joe Pickett front, though I think Nate might have reached the end of the developmental road. Joe is still good value for money but maybe he needs to spend some time on the shooting range with a Casul whatever it is so he doesn’t need Nate to come to his rescue!
PattoAJBNick Shor
Game warden Joe Pickett has only recently gotten a cell phone and learned to text. At fifty-one, he’s never been on social media. And now the governor wants him to take a billionaire social media tycoon on an elk hunt. The hidden agenda is to give Steven Price such a thrilling experience that he’ll put his huge new server project in Wyoming. If Joe fails to deliver the great adventure, Joe will be fired — and his department will be defunded. Adventure is forthcoming — but not the right kind. The weather is bitter cold. And while Price hunts elk, a family of murderous locals hunts him. As Joe attempts to get himself and Price off the mountain without food or weapons — betrayals abound, bullets fly, knives flash, and bodies pile up. I was riveted. I devoured Dark Sky in one day and night. Joe’s falconer friend, Nate Romanowski, also plays a role in the plot, so the reader can expect some satisfying violence on the side of good. (Can I say that?) Anyway, Joe Pickett’s latest impossible mission is a thrilling tale of wilderness survival. Conversations between Joe and his arrogant and rather naive charge are always interesting and often amusing. C. J. Box has delivered another superlative Joe Pickett novel. The laconic, trouble-prone, oddly resourceful game warden is aging — but never grows old.
Kathy HellerTobyP
I’ve read all the Joe Pickett novels and enjoyed them. I’d looked forward to the release of Dark Sky for months during the pandemic, but was disappointed in this installment of the Joe Pickett stories. The author reveal his political leanings, which I’d suspected before, but now there’s no doubt. The sad thing is it wasn’t germane to the storyline and totally unnecessary. I seldom write reviews, preferring to show my appreciation by purchasing an author’s next book. I may think twice about the next book, which I’m sure will pick up where this one left off. This wasn’t Mr. Box’s finest.
Jim ThomsenKathy
C.J. Box, I firmly believe, is not capable of writing a bad novel. But in the last few years I've begun to suspect that he's all too capable of writing an uninspired above-average novel, and DARK SKY, while above average in almost all respects compared to other entires in the Joe Pickett series and to other authors in his genre treading similar trails, does nothing to dispel this slowly dawning suspicion. DARK SKY is a novel that feels ... tired. And not just because Box seems to have gone once too often one of his favorite plot tropes: pairing Joe Pickett with a doofus or a dilettante in the Wyoming mountain wilderness, isolated, under-equipped and on the run from killers. This time, Joe is the unwitting, unwilling companion of Steve "Steve-2" Price, a Silicon Valley social-media mogul who comes across as something of a cross between Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk. Joe is assigned to be Price's wilderness guide when hunting and cutting his own meat because Steve-2's latest obsession with authenticity. Little do they know that Price is being targeted by a trio of men bent on revenge because a family member of theirs was shamed into suicide by Price's Facebook-like social-media app, ConFab. Price isn't uninteresting, and neither are the killers, or some other characters who turn out to hidden agendas where Steve-2 is concerned. But if you've read all the Pickett books — this is his twenty-first outing — you've read this story a few times before. And beyond that, Joe doesn't really have any interesting thoughts or observations about the world Steve-2 represents, and because Steve-2 is quite a loquacious fellow, Joe all but disappears under the weight of his guest star. There's some hammy sermonizing, pro and con, about the goods and the evils of social media, but nothing that passes for piercing insight beyond the drunk-at-the-end-of-the-bar level. Even Joe's signature line — "Things are about to get real Western here"— feels like it's being delivered as an obligation, like a band that has to play its biggest hit before its fans will allow it to leave the stage. It makes me wonder if Joe is all done growing as a character, because he doesn't grow an inch in DARK SKY. Really, none of Box's stock company registers to much effect here. Nate Romanowski does his Nate thing, tearing off ears and being tortured by his dark past, yadda yadda. Marybeth Pickett provides alarm and assistance in equal measure. We briefly meet Twelve Sleep County's new prosecuting attorney and sheriff. Daughters Lucy and April are AWOL. Same with Joe's evil mother-in-law, usually the most interesting character in a Pickett novel. Far from AWOL is Sheridan Pickett. Joe's eldest daughter seems to be a full-fledged adult here, living on her own, finding her own code, happily apprenticed to Nate as a falconer in training. In fact, she's grown so m...

Short Excerpt Teaser


Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett stood on the edge of the tarmac with his hands thrust into the pockets of his parka and his gray Stetson clamped on tight against the cold wind. It was a week until his birthday and his leg hurt and the brisk chill made him feel all of his fifty-one years on the planet.

His first glimpse of the $65 million Gulfstream G650ER private jet was of a gleaming white speck high above the rounded, snowcapped peaks of the Bighorn Mountains to the west.

It was a cloudless mid-October morning, but it had snowed an inch during the night and the ten-mile-an-hour breeze cleared the concrete of the runway, rolling thin smoky waves of flakes across the pavement of the Saddlestring Municipal Airport. The timbered mountains had received three to five inches that would likely melt away in the high-altitude sun, but the treeless summits looked like the white crowns of so many bald eagles standing shoulder to shoulder against the clear blue sky.

"Cold this morning," Brock Boedecker said.


Boedecker was a fourth-generation rancher whose land reached up from the breakland plateau into the midpoint of Battle Mountain. He had a classic western look about him: narrow, thin, with deep-set eyes and a bushy black mustache, its tips extending to his jawline. It was the kind of weathered look, Joe thought, that had once convinced the marketing team at Marlboro to hire the local Wyoming cowboy who'd brought them horses for their ad shoot instead of the male models they'd flown out from Hollywood.

"Not quite ready for snow yet," Boedecker said while tucking his chin into the collar of his jacket.


"About a month early for these temps."


"It's supposed to warm up a little later this week."


Boedecker asked, "Are you sure this is something we want to do?"

"Not really."

"Damn. I feel the same way. Is there any way we can get out of it?"


"I could do it without you," the rancher said. "Hell, I do this all the time."

"I know you could. But I wouldn't feel right letting you down at the last minute. I'm the one that got you into this, remember?"

"How's your leg?" Boedecker asked.

"Getting better all the time."

It was true. The gunshot Joe had sustained was healing on schedule due to months of rehabilitation and physical therapy, but he still walked with a limp. On cold mornings like this, he could feel it where the rifle round had punched through his thigh-a line of deadness rimmed by pangs of sharp pain when he moved.

Boedecker sighed. It seemed like there was something he wanted to say, so Joe waited. Finally: "Well, them horses you ordered are all trailered up and ready. I'll wait for you inside, I think."

Joe nodded. He turned to watch Boedecker make his way toward the glass doors of the old terminal. The rancher wore a weathered black hat, a canvas barn coat stained with oil, and a magenta silk scarf wrapped around his neck. His back was broad. The scarf reminded Joe that cowboys, even the crustiest of them, always displayed a little flash in their dress.

"Thanks for helping me out with this, Brock," Joe called out after him.

"You bet, Joe," he answered with a wave of his hand. He paused at the door and looked over his shoulder. "I wasn't sure I'd get here on time this morning. Did you know the sheriff has a roadblock set up so only authorized people can get to the airport?"

Joe said, "I heard about that."

"I guess they were worried about a mob scene. That's what the deputy told me. This guy is some big shot, huh?"

"That's what they say."

"I can't say I support what we're doing," the rancher said. "I wish we weren't doing it."

"I know," Joe said. Then: "It's supposed to be a big secret, so I'd appreciate you keeping it between us."

"Word's already out," Boedecker said.

"I don't know how," Joe said. The only reason he'd told Boedecker what he was about to do was because he'd needed to rent horses and tack from the rancher.

"I'm just not feeling too good about this guy," Boedecker said.

Joe nodded his understanding. Up until the week before, he'd been in the same boat. His wife, Marybeth, had needed to explain to him who the man was, even though everyone-especially their three daughters-seemed to know all about him.

"Are you still convinced we'll have 'em all back down by the time the cattle trucks show up? The horses, I mean?"

"Absolutely," Joe said. "We'l...