Readers of C.J. Box’s novels all hoped that Joe Pickett wouldn’t be out of the action for long and our hopes have been fulfilled in Box’s new book “FreeFire”.
Joe Pickett, the game-warden protagonist of six previous C.J. Box novels, was fired from his post at the end of the last book in the series and many readers wondered what could happen in the future. Joe is back, albeit as a “special projects” warden working “without portfolio” for the walk –on-the-wild –side Governor of Wyoming. He is sent to investigate murders in the so-called “Free Fire Zone” or “Yellowstone Zone of Death”. The premise behind this aspect of the book is that there is a zone in Yellowstone National Park where a crime can be committed and there are no people to form a local jury for the criminal’s trial due to a loophole in Federal, District and State jurisdictions.
This is a very thought provoking subject and is handled well by Box in the development of the story.
Given the diversity of the park that the author has chosen as backdrop for his book, there are several ideas with which he works. Corrupt government officials, unscrupulous bio-engineering companies out to exploit the park’s unusual resources and the vast wonderland that is Yellowstone are the main themes.
The book has all the action that readers have come to expect of Joe Pickett, but one wonders if Joe is losing his moral compass as he is exposed to ever-increasing violence and murder. Joe Pickett’s conflicting emotions when faced with a moral dilemma in the fulfillment of his duties is one aspect of the character that readers enjoy most, but he seems to have lost that in this book.
There is, however, no conflict in knowing who the bad guys are in the story. Mr. Box seems to have fallen prey to the popular idea that readers won’t be able to differentiate between good guys and bad guys without the foul language spewed by the latter. The author should give the readers credit to be able to recognize the black hats by their deeds and actions without the overuse of foul language.
That said, C.J. Box has crafted a familiar and complex character in Joe Pickett and the new book “FreeFire” provides as much enjoyment as the previous books in the series. This book is recommended for anyone who enjoys action, thought-provoking plot elements and the Western landscape.
C.J. Box lives outside of Cheyenne and is a native Wyomingite. All of his Joe Pickett novels are available at the Uinta County Library.
Reviewed by Carol Archer 6/22/2007