Review: Elk hunters become the hunted in novel ‘Dark Sky’

“Dark Sky,” by C.J. Box (Putnam)

Steve Price, the billionaire left coast CEO of a social media company, wants to go elk hunting in Wyoming. He’s hankering for a “real” wilderness experience, he tells the state’s governor, because when a guy like Price wants to shoot something, that’s who he calls.

The governor, hoping a good experience will convince Price to choose Wyoming for his new headquarters, orders Game Warden Joe Pickett to make it happen. Traipsing through the rugged mountains with a spoiled-rotten greenhorn and his fawning entourage isn’t on Joe’s bucket list, but the governor doesn’t give him much choice. Joe can lose the attitude or his job.

But in “Dark Sky,” C.J. Box’s 21st Joe Pickett novel, another Wyoming outdoorsman is thrilled at the news that Price is coming.

Earl Thomas blames social media in general and Price in particular for online bullying that he thinks drove his daughter to suicide. Earl figured he’d have to go to Silicon Valley to get his revenge, but now Price is coming to him.

As it turns out, the suicide may have been mostly Earl’s fault, but acknowledging that is not in his tool kit. So as Price and Pickett head into the mountains to hunt elk, Thomas and his two thuggish sons mount up to hunt them.

The result is a suspenseful, action-packed yarn set in the vividly described wilderness around Battle Mountain.

Meanwhile, as Joe is struggling to survive, his pal Nate Romanowski, a not fully reformed outlaw turned falconer, has troubles of his own. Somebody has been sealing his falcons, and if Nate ever gets his hands on him, blood will be spilled. This subplot ends in a cliffhanger, an obvious teaser for Joe Picket No. 22.

Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, is the author of the Mulligan crime novels including “The Dread Line.”