CJ Box: Vicious Circle
The inability to take down one man has haunted Joe Pickett, Wyoming game warden for many years. A prison sentence that did not even come close to punishing him for the violations that he committed will plague him until he takes him down once and for all. Dave Farkus is not the brightest light bulb nor does he have any common sense or brains. Not working and collecting disability checks has decided to run and hide but where and what is finally fate is will concern not only Joe Pickett but the sheriff’s department and many others. Dave Farkus is in a bar and overhears several people talking and at first he misinterpret what is said but upon further introspection he realizes that they are talking about Joe Pickett the game warden and someone wants to take him down. Hoping to leave the bar and not be seen, he makes a phone call using Wanda, the bartender’s phone and is overheard by former rodeo star and dangerous foe of Pickett Dallas Cates who has returned to act on his promise to take his revenge on Joe who sent him to prison 18 months ago. Dave makes the call and Dallas and three others lead him outside. Seeing the Undersheriff passing by he waves at him and thinking nothing of it, the Undersheriff never bothers to stop and investigate. Headed on a hunting trip with someone else, Dave heads for the camp alone without his friend and hunting partner. When they do team up Dave decides to go out on his own to hunt an Elk the other man wounds one and never goes after it to finish the job and Dave never returns to camp. Alerted to the fact that Dave is missing Joe and a team along with the Undersheriff spot him using an infrared spotting device but it takes them while to understand what they are seeing. Right before he is shot and killed he sees him hiding and notices three men surrounding him and possibly one other person. Dallas Cates is no longer in prison and here is where things get dangerous. Revenge on Joe and his family is his first line of defense and Dallas and his two henchman and a strange woman to do his dirty work act out in a manner that only psychopaths can do. When Joe realizes that he is out he warns his three daughters to be aware, keep their pepper stray with them and April who has attacked and left hurt and dumped out of his truck is about to face another attack but this time the wrong person is injured. Going to a rodeo college she and her friend Joy are about to eat dinner and someone knocks on the door claiming to be a pizza delivery person. But, before they can put a chain on the door, the person breaks in and takes a knife and stabs Joy thinking she is April. Wearing a jacket with her friend’s name on it she is wrongly attacked and sets April in motion to save her friend. Spivak, the Undersheriff goes after Dallas, arrests him and finds gun shells and more in his truck but when the preliminary hearing begins and Joe takes the stand, the Justice of the Peace Mouton, running it realizes that something is strange, the prosecutor handles the case in her usual out for blood manner, but the defense attorney is clearly not running the show, his client is. With Farkus identified and found, and the reminding readers that he was at Stockman’s Bar when he overheard the conversation, disappears from the hunting trip and found dead, it is soon realizes that Cates was the killer but how to prove it? Joe’s daughter April ran off with him dumped her out of his truck but that was in the past and now he was out for more than just blood. As Cates lost his father, two brothers and his mother is in prison but a quadriplegic. County prosecutor, Dulcie Schalk is sharp and thinks she has a strong case against him but does she? She cannot link him to the death of Farkus? Watching the proceedings you realize that Dallas is up to something but will what they have against him be enough?
Things change as Marcus Hand, enters the courtroom along with Joe’s wife’s mother, Missy Vankueren, and all of a sudden the air gets colder, the presiding judge speaks out and then Missy comes to visit her daughter and things take on an even darker turn. Wanting to make up for lost time, even though she is now on husband number six that defended her and got her immunity if she gave testimony against someone that was going to dispose of her but she beat him to it. When Joe’s daughter Sheridan phones and says she saw the same woman who attacked Joy, wearing the same hoodie and fit the same description, his wife ordered her home, and they invited themselves to stay at her home with the security detail she has in order to protect her and her children.
Things come into perspective as Joe learns more about Dallas and confronts him and the conversation skirts around the truths, lies and what Joe knows that Dallas is capable of and the threat: You won’t be there can easily be interpreted. While having this conversation, Core Lee Cates, the woman with the tattoos finds her way to where Joe’s family is hiding out, tries to break down the door with an ax, but Marybeth’s quick thinking and one call to 911 gets her foiled and stopped. What Joe learns when he questions her brings to light just how Dallas was being funded, who took out a huge policy on Bull Cates and why, the payoff and how one bank president might be as corrupt as she was when Vice President of another bank. With Dallas getting immunity from the murder charges, Marcus hand and Joe come face to face when taking his family out of his home, he realizes that Hand was in it for the money and admits that he knows Dallas is guilty. Seeking out the help of his friend Nate, hoping to take down what has been set in place, Joe faces off with not only Dallas, Cora Lee but Brenda too in an in prison interview that will make your blood curdle. Added in our Undersheriff is accused in court of planting evidence, stealing evidence and creating a crime scene to frame Dallas so who is funding the money to send his son to an elite camp? Was he on Dallas’s payroll and pretended to frame him knowing he would help get his released?
When Brenda Cates in her high tech wheelchair is confronted and questioned by Joe Pickett the answers he receives allows him to know that she is the brains behind what happened to Joy Bannon, Wanda Stacy April and Sheridan but you won’t believe her mode of communication. As Marybeth uncovers with her quick research the realization behind a microcomputer to power a tongue-controlled wheelchair you won’t believe just how Brenda could communicate her instructions anywhere and to anyone. Uncovering the truth behind her insurance policy on her dead husband Eldon whom she said had it coming and the over seven million she collected and is using with the inside help of a bank President but there is much more. Nate deals with ridding the world of birds of prey that harm crops, kill other birds and harm people. Using his skills as a hunter and killer, he finds the hideout of Dallas but when discovered you won’t believe what he learns and who is behind more than just what happened in court. The ending is quite remarkable and the end result could get Joe killed when speaking with Brenda as she is dangerous and tries to use her wheelchair as a weapon. Luthi and Cross-are Dallas’s henchman will they come to his rescue or will someone turn on them too? Situations in which the most logical solution of a problem related to a chain of circumstances which spirals into and creates more problems and makes it hard to solve the first one. When Dallas decides to keep it coming, takes out too many people, refuses to consider that fact that he got away with murder, won’t stop until Joe and his family are all gone as the original problem started years ago, escalated and now there is no turning back as he keeps creating more and more until there is no where to go and the ending is the finality to the problem and the Vicious Circle. Characters that draw you into the plot and a main character with moral and values you respect. Vicious Circle has earned its FIVE GOLDEN STARS. Author CJ Box delivers believable and real life situations that could be ripped right out of the headlines.
FRAN LEWIS: JUST REVIEWS/MJ MAGAZINE