Book review: Force of Nature by C J Box

Force of Nature
by C. J. Box
Corvus, 2012
Joe Pickett #12

Although a “Joe Pickett” series novel, Force of Nature is mainly about falconer Nate Romanowski. Nate is Joe’s best friend and has been involved in several of the earlier books, a mysterious character with an unknown (but dark) past. Here, readers learn of that past as Nate takes centre stage to resolve his unfinished business. Hence, for readers new to this author, Force of Nature is a good introduction to the series. Regular readers such as myself will, of course, enjoy the book both for its narrative and for the ongoing development of familiar characters.

Nate has for some years lived “under the radar” of society, hiding out in various wild, mountainous areas of the northwestern United States. He is technically a deserter from a special operations unit in the Army. In the opening scenes of Force of Nature, as Nate is flying his falcons, he is asked for help by some local fisherman whose boat is out of control. They attack him, he responds, and once again finds himself on the run. Soon, it becomes apparent to Nate that a figure from his past is behind this and other lethal events. The mystery at the core of Nate’s character and way of life, when revealed, explains why violent incidents are occurring, and why Nate has little option in deciding what to do about them.

Joe Pickett is a US game warden in the small Wyoming town of Saddlestring. Although he is Nate’s good friend, as a dedicated law-enforcement officer he has always distanced himself from knowing too much about Nate’s past and present actions. Here, though, he realises that it isn’t that easy to separate friendship from support, and has to make decisions for himself and for his family about whose side he is on, and how far he will go to help his friend.

Force of Nature is, as usual, a highly readable novel in which one just has to keep turning the pages to find out how the action will pan out. Nate has been a rather two-dimensional character in previous novels, mainly because of his mysteriousness and his silent relationship with nature, as well as the focus on Joe and his family. In Force of Nature, he emerges as a more rounded character, and hence the reader is more involved in his past and present predicaments. As usual, the settings are to the fore; one feels one is there in Wyoming, Montana or Idaho as Nate and Joe traverse the mountain trails. I have to admit that I felt a little disappointed that Joe, Marybeth and their three daughters take a back seat in this novel, but I hope that the author will be rectifying that situation soon!

Read my reviews of all of the Joe Pickett series.

Other reviews of Force of Nature: StarTribune (which coins the term “wilderness noir” for this series),, Kirkus reviews, and many more.

About the book at the author’s website, including downloadable first chapter and quotes from many reviews. a long interview with the author about Force of Nature.

10 thoughts on “Book review: Force of Nature by C J Box

  1. I have seen CJ Box in the bookshops but never read any of hers. You are obviously a fan and I am impressed by how much you are reading at the moment!

  2. Oddly enough, I’ve never read this series! I have the first couple in paperback and at least one for Kindle, so will remedy that soon.

  3. Maxine – Excellent review as ever. I’m not quite up to this one yet but I am eager to learn more about Nate, so it’s good to hear that he’s the focus of this novel. I’ve always liked the way his character and that of Pickett play off one another, so I look forward to that aspect of this one as well.

  4. Finished this one last night and it blew me away, I’m running out of superlatives to hurl at CJ Box…

    You make a good point about Joe’s family though, they’re one of the strongest points of the series for my money. Still, I’m sure they’ll be back with a vengeance in number 13.

    • Thanks, Mike. I also think that when Joe is the focus there is more of a mystery element, which I prefer. When Nate is the focus one tends to get more action and violence (not his fault, but it happens to him) – of less interest to me.

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