by Bruce TierneyJuly, 2004
Mysterious moose mutilations
Author C. J. Box mines Hillerman territory in Trophy Hunt, his fourth novel featuring Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett. While on a fly-fishing outing with his young daughters, Pickett is brought up short by the sighting of a dead moose. The death of a majestic animal is bad enough by any measure, but this one is particularly horrific: the animal's genitals have been surgically removed, and the flesh of its face stripped off. The moose is bloated to almost twice its normal size; it appears ready to explode. Stranger still, there are no tracks leading away from the moose, and predators have given the animal wide berth. Pickett is a very down-to-earth sort, but he can find no sensible explanation for what he sees. It will not be long, he realizes, until there are wild rumors of aliens (or worse) in Big Sky Country. Any hopes of keeping a lid on the story are dashed as the mutilations spread to the cattle population. The locals, normally a rugged and independent bunch, live in fear of leaving their homes after dark; they want answers, and they expect Joe Pickett to provide them (or die trying). Trophy Hunt offers a new dimension to Pickett's character: the dilemma of a rational man confronted by the inexplicable. The story is drawn from real-life incidents, as yet unexplained, of cattle mutilations in Montana.