Kurt Anthony Krug

Three-Inch Teeth
by C.J. Box  
G.P. Putnam's Sons, February 2024, $30

Wyoming-based game warden Joe Pickett has his hands full in his 24th novel, Three-Inch Teeth. Not only does he have to deal with a grizzly bear on a deadly rampage, an old enemy named Dallas Cates is out of prison and out for revenge. Cates has a list of names of the six people who helped put him away tattooed to his hand—and Pickett and Nate Romanowski are two of them. If only one member of Pickett’s supporting cast dies, that’s getting off easy.

The description of the bear attacks—especially the one that opens the book—are pretty harrowing, filling the reader with a sense of dread. As Pickett tries to figure out what is motivating the bear attacks and deal with a group of animal rights activists called the Mama Bears, Cates is recruiting a team of hardened criminals to help him with his revenge scheme, including another old enemy of Pickett’s named Axel Soledad. Cates takes advantage of the chaos and panic in the wake of the grizzly’s rampage to exact revenge, leading to quite the showdown at the end.

There is also a subplot involving Pickett’s daughter Sheridan and an enigmatic, bitter old woman named Katy Cotton. This subplot is resolved abruptly (in fact, the ending feels a bit rushed). It would’ve served Box to devote more time to it in the next Pickett novel.

Still, in the grand scheme of things, that’s a small complaint to have. Box writes with an authentic sense of place, having grown up in Wyoming, where he hiked, fished, and hunted. The cliché of writing what you know applies here. He also knows how to ratchet up the tension, writing with a sense of urgency that burns through the pages rather quickly.