Below Zero by C.J. Box is the ninth book in the “Joe Pickett” thriller series.  Publisher: Putnam, June 2009

“Tell Sherry April called.” That simple phone message shakes Joe Pickett’s oldest daughter Sheridan and the rest of the family to the core. To Joe, it doesn’t seem even remotely possible that April could have survived the massacre described in Winterkill six years before. He was there, and he was unable to save her. But Sheridan starts to believe there’s a chance that April is still alive, and her suspicions are confirmed when the person sending texts to her cell phone is able to recall family incidents only April could know.

Meanwhile, a dying Chicago mobster named Stenko and a much younger girl cross the country. He’s on a mission is to reconcile with his extreme environmentalist son before he goes. His son is less interested in reconciliation than in getting his father to repent for the environmental crimes he’s committed during his lifetime. He wants his father to become not just carbon neutral, but to reduce his carbon footprint to below zero—as if he’d never even existed.

But when “April’s” texts start to refer to “bad things,” and when Joe discovers they come from locations throughout the West where vicious murders have taken place, alarm bells go off. Joe, Sheridan, and Nate Romanowski take to the road to connect the texts with the crimes.

As Stenko and his companions starts to cross path with Joe, Sheridan, and Nate, the question looms: Is this young girl April or is the Pickett family the victims of the cruelest of hoaxes?

What a ride that I didn’t want to get off.  I enjoyed seeing the race between Joe, Sheridan and Nate to find April before harm comes to her.  Is this young girl April or not?  The surprising twist at the end gives us the answer.  My rating: 4 stars

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