The book preceding this one in Jeff Carson’s series about Colorado Sheriff David Wolf left the reader with a cliffhanger. Smoked Out is the first book of the series where I’d say you couldn’t pick it up unless you had read at least the one before this, although much of the story has been set up in the books leading up to this. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself dropped into the mystery of who killed David Wolf’s ex-wife (among others) and not understand why it could not have been him.
As the book opens, David Wolf is left literally broken, both in body and spirit, after losing the race for Sheriff when his own county, Sluice County merged with nearby Byron County to consolidate services. The new Sheriff, Will McLean, begins enacting changes that grate against the way Wolf operated, making the few remaining deputies from Sluice County very uncomfortable.
Wolf soon finds himself accused of the murder of his ex-wife and her apparent lover, as well as of the suspicious death of a woman who was trying to set up one of his deputies. He knows he’s innocent, but it’s also pretty obvious someone is gunning for him, and setting him up for these murders removes any chance of persuading others in law enforcement to look a little harder at certain things, especially involving the new Sheriff.
However, FBI Special Agent Kristen Luke has worked with Wolf before and doesn’t think he is capable of the crimes he is accused of. She helps him hide out from law enforcement while the two work on the mystery of who wants him out of the picture and why. It’s the murder of the woman connected to one of his deputies that is the key to it all, and as David and Kristen follow the clues of the mystery they find themselves on the crosshairs of the real killers as well.
There’s a lot of intrigue and action in Smoked Out. David is on the run, so there are a lot of dodging people who are looking for him, both for nefarious purposes and from law enforcement. He doesn’t want his choice to run to affect anyone else, but he has bred a lot of loyalty in the first five books of the series, and it shows when more people decide to cross the line to help him.
At the same time, David is isolated. His son blames him for his mother’s death, whether or not he actually believes his father could have killed her. This puts a strain on David that he wasn’t expecting. He’s fighting against his own body at times as well, when he should be resting and recuperating. There’s no time for that, though, and the pace throughout the book is a fast one. David is fighting off severe pain as well as a head injury that results in physical symptoms quite often during the course of the book. I can say that it’s pretty accurate, having my own prolonged issues after a brain injury.
There’s a high body count here, as all those who were protecting a drug cartel find their lives in danger and are often eliminated. The violence seems to be right from the headlines of violence involving drug gangs, and that is the one weakness of the book. It seems like it is preying on every cliche that normally wouldn’t be found in a rural Colorado community, but that they see coming out of the “big cities” and regard with fear.
I have enjoyed this series a lot as David Wolf is not a superhuman, although he does come off as one here at times. He makes mistakes, but he has great integrity that cannot be corrupted, which makes him an exception, especially in Smoked Out. The characters are all well-developed at this point in the series, if the villains here are a bit too cliche.
Previous book in the series: