10 Best CJ Box Books Every Fan Should Read

Dive into the world of mystery thrillers with our list of the ten best CJ Box books. Experience fast-paced, suspenseful storytelling at its finest!

We have compiled the ten best C.J. Box Books for you to peruse. C.J. Box offers a captivating blend of thrills, mystery, and meticulous descriptions of the scenic landscapes of Wyoming. 

Charles James Box Jr., aka C.J. Box, is a New York Times bestselling author of over 30 novels that have sold over ten million copies in the U.S. His popular series, The Highway and Joe Pickett, have been adapted into the TV shows Big Sky (2020) and Joe Pickett (2021).

Box grew up in Casper, Wyoming, and is passionate about the outdoors. His ability to craft gripping stories and his knowledge of the American West makes his writing unique. 

Box is a recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Edgar, Anthony, and Macavity awards. He even won the “BIG WYO” Award from Wyoming Tourism for contributing to the state’s tourism and hospitality industry by promoting Wyoming in his books.

In The Author Stories Podcast, Box shares how he keeps his work interesting: “I’m not always drawing from something in the past, but it’s all new to me, and I think that keeps the books fresh and it keeps me interested.”

If you’re a fan of Box’s works, we have a list of his best books you should have in your collection. Read on!

Do you enjoy solving mysteries? See our list of the best detective novel series.

Best CJ Box Books

1. Open Season (Joe Pickett #1)

Open Season
Open Season was first published in May 2001

Open Season is the riveting start to the famed Joe Pickett series. Set against the scenic backdrop of Wyoming, the book introduces readers to Joe Pickett, a dedicated game warden with a strong sense of justice. The plot is thick with suspense as Pickett stumbles upon a conspiracy threatening his life and his family’s safety. Box’s vivid portrayals of characters, authentic depiction of the Wyoming landscape, and his fast-paced narrative make it a solid start to the series.

The novel was based on a story of a story Box followed when he was a journalist. It was about endangered species discovered in northwestern Wyoming. Box did well with his debut novel as it won the 2002 Anthony, Macavity, Gumshoe, and Barry Awards for Best First Novel category.

“In Wyoming, the people owned the game animals, and they took their ownership to heart.”

C.J. Box, Open Season
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02/18/2024 03:50 pm GMT

2. Shots Fired: Stories from Joe Pickett Country (A Joe Pickett Novel)

Shots Fired
Shots Fired: Stories from Joe Pickett Country includes three never-before-published stories

Shots Fired: Stories from Joe Pickett Country is a collection of 10 short stories showcasing the variety and richness of Box’s storytelling. In this collection, Box further develops his characters in the Joe Pickett universe. 

Whether you’re a longtime fan of the Joe Pickett series or a newcomer, this book offers a deep, satisfying plunge into a world of outdoor adventure, complex characters, and high-stakes drama. Avid readers of the series will feel more invested in the characters’ lives, while new readers don’t need to read Box’s previous novels to get to grips with Shots Fired.

“The savage lives within himself, while the social man lives constantly outside himself, and only knows how to live in the opinion of others, so that he seems to receive the consciousness of his own existence merely from the judgment of others concerning him.”

C.J. Box, Stories from Joe Pickett Country (A Joe Pickett Novel)
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02/19/2024 05:56 pm GMT

3. Blue Heaven

Blue Heaven
Blue Heaven is set in Kootenai Bay, Idaho

Before continuing his Joe Pickett books with Blood Trail (Joe Pickett #8), Box shared his first standalone novel, Blue Heaven, in 2008. Blue Heaven is about the Taylor siblings running away from a wolf pack of retired cops after witnessing a murder. As the children find refuge in Jess Rawlins’ old barn, the evil cops “volunteer” to help with the investigation.

Unlike many of Box’s other works, this standalone novel highlights tenderness and vulnerability, primarily through its child characters. This blend of empathy and violence makes it a unique Box novel. It stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for four weeks and won the 2009 Edgar Award for Best Mystery Novel.

“She always envied those who seemed to have a map, a plan, a destination, something inside that provided a framework.”

C.J. Box, Blue Heaven
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02/19/2024 05:53 pm GMT

4. Breaking Point (Joe Pickett #13)

Breaking Point
Box’s Breaking Point was inspired by the 2012 Sackett case

In Breaking Point, Box sends Pickett on a challenging mission to track down an acquaintance, Butch Roberson. The man is suspected of murdering two Environmental Protection Agency agents and now has nowhere to run. The news shocks everyone, but the reward to whoever catches the fugitive heightens the frenzy. Pickett goes to find Roberson, hoping to discover the whole story.

Goodread’s book reviews praise how Box threads real-life issues such as land disputes and abuse of power in his plot. In 2021, it won the Maltese Falcon Award. If you’re looking for a book that combines action, social commentary, and compelling character studies, Breaking Point is a must-read.

“It’s not worth it trying to push back because they hold all the cards.”

C.J. Box, Breaking Point
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02/19/2024 05:56 pm GMT

5. Endangered (Joe Pickett #15)

Endangered
Endangered won the 2016 Western Heritage Award for Best Western Novel

Box’s novel Endangered presents Joe Pickett with his most challenging case yet. As Pickett inspects the butchered flock of endangered sage grouse, he receives a call that his runaway foster daughter, April, has been located — beaten and left for dead. She ran away after her 18th birthday (Stone Cold) and is in an induced coma.

Now, Pickett has to solve two cases. But that’s not all; his old friend, Nate Romanowski (Force of Nature), is ambushed and needs help.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel described Endangered as “an edge-of-the-seat thriller.” Readers will enjoy the novel’s action-packed sequences, meticulous plot, and raw portrayal of humanity. Plus, it has one of the most satisfying endings in the Joe Pickett books yet.

“Even the worst scenes could be improved by a layer of white snow.”

C.J. Box, Endangered
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02/19/2024 06:00 pm GMT

6. Off the Grid (Joe Pickett #16)

Off the Grid
The character Nate Romanowski is based on Box’s close friend, who introduced him to the world of falconers

Box’s Off the Grid follows Joe Pickett’s falconer friend, Nate Romanowski, seven months after his ambush (Endangered). He’s living off the grid but stuck in a vicious circle. After getting his freedom, the government finds him and demands he do something for them. In the last book, it was to entrap a kingpin. Now, it’s to stop a possible terrorist.

Meanwhile, Joe Pickett is tasked by the governor to investigate why the feds showed up in his state and what they’re up to. In exchange, the governor will help the Picketts with their case against their health insurance company.

This book is not just another thriller; it explores survival, morality, and the blurred lines between right and wrong. Its gripping narrative and insightful take on contemporary issues like privacy and government surveillance make it captivating.

“Nature is a powerful narcotic, boys. Once you step into it and accept how beautiful and cruel it is, you want to stay there.”

C.J. Box, Off the Grid
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02/19/2024 05:56 pm GMT

7. Inherit The Dead

Inherit The Dead
Profits from Inherit The Dead are donated to Safe Horizon, a victim assistance group

At least twenty popular mystery authors collaborated to complete Inherit The Dead. This feat alone offers the audience a unique reading experience. Here, C.J. Box penned the 17th chapter.

Inherit The Dead is about a former NYPD homicide detective, Pericles “Perry” Christo. Now, without a badge, he accepts a request to find a missing heiress. At the end of his search, he’ll either score big bucks or kick the bucket. 

The book’s interesting storyline and rich character development will grip readers from the first chapter to the last. If you’re in the mood for a complex, multi-layered mystery written by some of the best minds in the genre, then you should definitely pick up Inherit The Dead.

“One of the most often repeated legends in the publishing world is that crime fiction writers are the nicest of all. The theory is that they work out all their angst and all their aggression on the page by killing made-up people in all kinds of gruesome ways.”

C.J. Box, Inherit The Dead
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02/19/2024 05:57 pm GMT

8. Three Weeks To Say Goodbye

Three Weeks To Say Goodbye
C.J. Box’s inspiration for Three Weeks To Say Goodbye came from a friend’s open adoption experience in Texas, US

Imagine being in Jack and Melissa McGuane’s shoes: you finally get the daughter you’ve been dreaming about for years, only for an administrative mistake to bring the adoption process into question. You have no money, no legal leg to stand on, and, oh, the biological grandfather of your adopted daughter is a federal judge. That’s what Three Weeks To Say Goodbye is about.

Through the book’s protagonist, Box shows his writing prowess in portraying human fragility. Jack McGuane, unlike Box’s Joe Pickett, is in no way a “macho man.” His strength instead comes from paternal instincts. If you’re seeking a thrilling, heart-wrenching novel criticizing the legal system and delving into parents’ love, read Three Weeks To Say Goodbye.

“There are good people in the world. Good people, kind people… They all could have chosen to be cold, cruel, indifferent. That would have been easy.”

C.J. Box, Three Weeks To Say Goodbye
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02/19/2024 05:55 pm GMT

9. The Highway (Hoyt/Dewell #2)

The Highway
The most significant plot twist in The Highway is switching Coby Hoyt to Cassie Dewel as the main protagonist

The Highway centers around Cassie Dewell, Cody Hoyt’s ex-partner in the sheriff’s department. She may be a rookie investigator, but she’s keen on finding Danielle and Gracie Sullivan (Back of Beyond), whom the Lizard King abducted. The Lizard King is a serial killer known for hunting women on the highway and torturing his victims. Plus, he may not be working alone.

This psychological thriller is fast-paced and brutal. Though part of the Hoyt/Dewell series, it can be read as a standalone novel. The book offers a realistic portrayal of characters, locations, and a storyline filled with unexpected twists and turns. In 2020, it was adapted into a TV series titled Big Sky, which premiered on ABC.

“Love is grand, but divorce is a hundred grand.”

C.J. Box, The Highway
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02/19/2024 05:55 pm GMT

10. Badlands (Hoyt/Dewell #3)

Badlands
Box crafted the character Kyle with the help of his daughter, who works for family services

After the shocking events in The Highway, Box continues to write about Cassie Dewell in Badlands. Now, she’s a lead investigator in a town unfamiliar to her — one that attracts a vast population thanks to the recent discovery of its oil deposit. Dewell is still tracking down the Lizard King. But now, she also has to deal with gangs, drugs, and more murder.

Dewell then meets Kyle Westergaard, a 12-year-old with fetal alcohol syndrome. After witnessing a crash one day on his paper round, he takes home a package containing money and bags of white powder from the scene. Aside from solving current crimes, Dewell now has to protect a witness.

Box alternates between Dewell and Westergarrd’s perspectives, creating a sense of urgency and suspense in the storyline. Their pursuit of justice amid an intricate web of crime will keep you engrossed and invested. Badlands won the 2015 Barry Award for Best Mystery Novel.

“The headless trunk was discovered impaled on a metal fencepost on the edge of the town park.”

C.J. Box, Badlands
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02/19/2024 05:56 pm GMT

If you are interested in crime novels, check out our best true crime books for adrenaline seekers. 

Author

  • Maria Caballero is a freelance writer who has been writing since high school. She believes that to be a writer doesn't only refer to excellent syntax and semantics but also knowing how to weave words together to communicate to any reader effectively.