Three-Inch Teeth (A Joe Pickett Novel)

Image of Three-Inch Teeth (A Joe Pickett Novel)
Release Date: 
February 27, 2024
G.P. Putnam's Sons
Reviewed by: 

Once a reader opens Three-Inch-Teeth it is altogether possible that the book will not be closed again until the last word on the last page has been read. As with author C.J. Box’s 23 previous Joe Pickett novels, this one is a fast-paced, engaging page-turner.

Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett is called out to investigate a grizzly bear attack on a fisherman in the Twelve Sleep River. He finds the victim dismembered, partially eaten, and cached in a shallow grave on the riverbank awaiting a return visit from the bear. Pickett calls in reinforcements from the Department of Game and Fish. “The Predator Attack Team consisted of five armed wardens from around the state who were called to respond immediately to large-carnivore attacks. They were a kind of SWAT team, except trained to confront wild animals instead of human perpetrators,” Box writes.

Despite specialized training and equipment, it does not go well when one of the pursuers finds himself the pursued. “The action was fast and furious and hard to follow through Joe’s scope. His red dot flashed across the glistening hide of the grizzly to Brodbeck’s flailing hands to the terrifying moment when the bear’s jaws engulfed Brodbeck’s head and shook him like a puppy playing with a sock.”

Television news coverage of the attacks gets the attention of Dallas Cates, a recently released convict who has Pickett’s name on a hit list tattooed on his hand. “He hadn’t even tried to read the name tag of the man in the news story, because he knew him. He hated him. The game warden had a spot waiting for him on the back of Cates’s hand. Joe Pickett.”

The notoriety of the rogue grizzly attacks gives Cates an idea, and he employs the help of other ne’er-do-wells to launch a reign of terror across the state as he checks other names off his list. But the nature of the continuing attacks blamed on the bear, as well as their locations across the state, makes Nate Romanowski—Pickett’s friend and sometime violent protector—suspicious. “[S]omething about this string of incidents doesn’t set well with me. I know about predators—I’ve studied them all my life. Hell, I’ve been accused of being one. Predators have certain traits and patterns, even if we can’t figure them out at first,” Romanowski says. “Maybe you and your Predator Attack Team need to start thinking outside the box.”

The attacks continue. “At home, Joe sat up suddenly in bed. He was instantly wide awake and checked the clock on the nightstand. It was six a.m.—he had slept in.

“Marybeth [Pickett’s wife] stirred beside him. ‘Joe, are you all right?’

“He shook his head. ‘I just had a bad dream. I dreamed that the grizzly came back.’

“As he said it, his phone on the nightstand lit up with an incoming call.”

So ends Chapter 18. The excerpt provides an example of the author’s deft use of language to create tension and portent, a skill he employs throughout the book to keep the pages turning.

But violent action is not the whole story. “[Pickett] thought about how much of his job . . . was becoming less concerned with managing wildlife and more about dealing with people who fetishized animals. He blamed it partly on the disconnect between modern Americans and nature. Although it was beautiful and fascinating, Joe knew how rough it was out there in the wild. Brutal, bloody, and completely ruthless. The circle of life, he knew, was amoral at best.”

Pickett struggles to deal with a pair of animal lovers who sabotage efforts to track the bear, the distraught father of the first victim, law enforcement officials who ignore evidence in pursuit of their own interests, and fear for his family in light of Dallas Cates’s hatred and vow of revenge.

Fans of C.J. Box and Joe Pickett will not be disappointed with this latest addition to the series, and readers who meet them for the first time in these pages are likely to be hooked by the Wyoming game warden’s adventures like a trout in the Twelve Sleep River.