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Off the Grid
Cover of Off the Grid
Off the Grid
Joe Pickett Series, Book 16
by C. J. Box
The Red Desert of Wyoming is a beautiful and punishing place for anybody, even for game warden Joe Pickett and his friend Nate Romanowski in this #1 New York Times bestselling thriller...

Nate is off the grid, recuperating from wounds and trying to deal with past crimes, when he is suddenly surrounded by a small team of elite professional special operators. They're not there to threaten him, but to make a deal. They need help destroying a domestic terror cell in Wyoming's Red Desert, and in return they'll make Nate's criminal record disappear.
But they are not what they seem, as Nate's friend Joe Pickett discovers. They have a much different plan in mind, and it just might be something that takes them all down—including Nate and Joe.
The Red Desert of Wyoming is a beautiful and punishing place for anybody, even for game warden Joe Pickett and his friend Nate Romanowski in this #1 New York Times bestselling thriller...

Nate is off the grid, recuperating from wounds and trying to deal with past crimes, when he is suddenly surrounded by a small team of elite professional special operators. They're not there to threaten him, but to make a deal. They need help destroying a domestic terror cell in Wyoming's Red Desert, and in return they'll make Nate's criminal record disappear.
But they are not what they seem, as Nate's friend Joe Pickett discovers. They have a much different plan in mind, and it just might be something that takes them all down—including Nate and Joe.
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  • From the book Chapter One


    Nate Romanowski knew trouble was on the way when he saw the falcon's wings suddenly flare in the distance. Something beyond his eyesight was coming fast.

    It was cool and crisp in the desert and the light dawn breeze smelled of dust and the rotting carcasses of dead wild horses who had drunk at a poisoned spring.

    The rising sun bathed the eastern sky ochre and silhouetted the rock haystacks and hoodoos into a dark snaggle-toothed horizon. It was the best time of day, he thought: the anticipatory moment before the morning light lifted the curtain on the terrain to reveal the reds, pinks, oranges and beiges of the striations in the bone-dry rock formations and revealed the rugged broken terrain. The desert was made up of canyons, arroyos, and vast sheets of hard-packed clay that had been sculpted through history first by magma, then water, now wind.

    Nate had learned that in the morning the desert didn't wake up. Instead, it shut down. Herds of pronghorns moved from the sparse grassy bottoms where they'd been grazing through the night to the high desert plateaus where they could be seen for miles – and they could be on the lookout for predators. Herds of wild horses, with their cracked hooves and woolly jug-heads, trotted across openings headed for the shade of wind-formed rock oddities that looked in the right light like Doric columns that remained from ancient ruins.

    It was the early morning hours when cottontails retreated to their dens and upland game birds moved from feeding on seeds and grass to structure and safety.

    That was why Nate chose this time to hunt.

    But he wasn't the only predator in the area.


    The gyrfalcon, the largest and most formidable falcon of the species, was a horizontal hunter. Unlike the prairie falcon, which struck its prey fast and low and often in the air from a perch or promontory, or the peregrine that screamed down from the heavens at 200 miles an hour with balled fists and intercepted its target in a mid-flight explosion of meat and feathers, the huge gyr cruised silent and white above the desert floor. When the gyrfalcon sighted its prey — a rabbit, sage grouse, or gopher — it maneuvered its profile into the sun, then simply dropped down on it as if from the sun itself and pinned its prey to the ground. The gyr then used its weight and the powerful grip of its talons to crush the life out of its meal. If the prey continued to struggle or wouldn't die fast enough, the gyr bent over and severed the spinal cord with its hooked, razor-sharp beak.

    Nate wasn't sure how long he'd been hunting with the new gyrfalcon. There were gaps in his memory. All he knew was that the big bird was his partner and had arrived as some kind of gift from the arctic where it thrived and now he was hunting with it.

    The falcon was stocky and thick the first time he lifted it up on his glove, and it weighed more than any raptor he'd ever flown. It was smaller than a golden or bald eagle but not by much, maybe a pound or two less. When it was in the air, its five-foot wingspan and mottled white coloring reminded Nate of a flying white wolf. In the dawn of the desert, when the first shafts of the sun lit up the gyrfalcon in flight, its coloring made it look twice as big as it actually was. The gyrfalcon was a formidable weapon. If a peregrine was a cruise missile, Nate thought, the gyrfalcon was a Stealth bomber.

    Gyrfalcons had been reserved for royalty in ancient times. Commoners couldn't fly them. It was a miracle that the big white bird had shown up. She was a big female, almost...

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from January 11, 2016
    Bestseller Box’s 16th Joe Pickett adventure (after 2015’s Endangered) opens with some of the sweetest words any true fan of the series could hope to see: “Nate Romanowski knew trouble was on the way when he saw the falcon’s wings suddenly flare in the distance.” The best Joe Pickett novels are those that prominently feature Nate, the original off-the-grid freeman, and Nate dominates at least half of this yarn, while Joe’s equally fine alternating chapters lead to their inevitable crossing of paths late in the story. The action involves elements as disparate as a killer grizzly bear, noxious government agents with nearly limitless power, a Julian Assange–type activist with a messiah complex, Wyoming’s irrepressible Governor Rulon, and one of the most brutal bands of terrorists you would never want to find on American soil. A master at managing multiple plot lines, Box brings them all together for a nerve-wracking climax that rivals The Wild Bunch for utter havoc. With this exceptional entry, Box solidifies his place at the upper level of the crime fiction pantheon. Author tour. Agent: Ann Rittenberg, Ann Rittenberg Literary Agency.

  • Kirkus

    January 1, 2016
    Terrorists, libertarians, and wild cards duke it out in game warden Joe Pickett's Wyoming. Nate Romanowski, who doesn't like being called a homicidal libertarian folk hero even though the shoe fits like a glove, has been minding his own business, miles from civilization, when a phone call between his lover, Olivia Brannan, and her mother, who's dying in Louisiana, reveals his whereabouts to a pair of clean-cut sharpies calling themselves Brian Tyrell and Keith Volk. Unless Nate wants to stand trial along with Olivia for a gaggle of felonies he's accumulated over previous installments (Endangered, 2015, etc.), they tell him, he'd better sign on with the Wolverines, a group of disaffected government freelancers sick of federal rules and regulations, to make contact with a terrorist who's landed in the Red Desert. They hope the target, Muhammad Ibraaheem, will open up to Nate, who shares his anti-government idealism and his love of falconry. No sooner has Nate taken off to track down Ibby than outgoing Wyoming Gov. Spencer Rulon, apprised of his disappearance, persuades Nate's old friend, game warden Joe Pickett, to go hunting for him. Despite the obstacles, ranging from a highly irritated grizzly bear to the obligatory involvement of Joe's family--this time his daughter Sheridan, a college senior who decides to go camping at the worst possible time and place--Nate soon locates and befriends Ibby, and Joe eventually finds Nate. Nothing else goes according to plan, mainly because Ibby's plans are more apocalyptic than Nate can imagine, and other parties turn out to be interested in the high-octane proceedings. Even though you just know Box isn't going to put an end to his highly successful franchise by blowing his lead characters to kingdom come, you can't help turning the pages and holding your breath until you find out where this scary, all-too-plausible caravan is heading.

    COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    November 1, 2015
    This 16th entry in multiple award winner Box's "Joe Pickett" series has Joe helping off-the-grid buddy Nate Romanowski, who's been approached by a cryptic organization offering to blot out his criminal record if he helps destroy a domestic terror cell in Wyoming's Red Desert. Note that a Joe Pickett television series is being developed by Robert Redford.

    Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    February 1, 2016
    In the sixteenth Joe Pickett novel, the game warden's renegade friend Nate Romanowski is coerced by a shadow government into tracking down a fellow falconer, the son of a Saudi ambassador, who's suspected of terrorist activity. Muhammad Ibraaheem has gone off the grid, not in the shifting sands of the Middle East but rather in south-central Wyoming's Red Desert. When outgoing governor Rulon gets wind of the operation in his territory, he sends Joe in for one last case as his Range Rider. What is the Americanized Ibby really up to? Nate is impresseduntil events force him and the late-arriving Joe to protect Joe's daughter, Sheridan, and a bunch of other college students who've become involved, before making their own desperate last stand. Add a killer grizzly bear, and you have a terrorist thriller with a uniquely western flair. Aside from a few overlong stretches of exposition, and the fact that Sheridan's presence feels like a stretch, this is a breakneck story that Pickett fans will want to read in one sitting.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The print run for this one wasn't available, but there's a good reason the author's name is the biggest thing on the cover. Expect a strong promotional campaign and equally strong reader demand.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2016, American Library Association.)

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