Review

Free Fire: A Joe Picket Novel

by C. J. Box

C.
J. Box has quite a resume. The author of six previous novels, he is
the recipient of the Anthony, Macavity, Gumshoe, Barry and French
Calibre .38 awards; has been nominated for an Edgar Award; and was
a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist. So why isn't Box a
household name? He should be. Joe Pickett, his creation, is a
much-less-than-invincible Wyoming game warden around whom no
vehicle is safe and who seems to bring bad luck and misfortune to
those around him.

About the highest praise I can give FREE FIRE, Box's latest, is
that part of me wishes I had not read it so soon --- or so quickly
--- as I will have to wait another year or so for a new C. J. Box
novel. Three-quarters mystery and one-quarter western, FREE FIRE
finds Pickett fired from his game warden job, working and living on
his father-in-law's ranch. Part of Pickett's duties involve
attempting to show his brother-in-law (a true waste of skin) the
ropes; while the interludes involving this are brief, they do
provide some comic relief to balance what is to follow.

Pickett's routine and life are upended when he receives an
unexpected visit from Spencer Rulon, the governor of Wyoming. Rulon
offers Pickett his game warden job back and an opportunity to
investigate the circumstances of a multiple murder spree that took
place in Yellowstone National Park. Clay McCann, an attorney of
questionable reputation, slaughtered four people in an area of the
park known as the free-fire zone. Though he has freely admitted to
the killings, he cannot be prosecuted for them by either the state
or federal government.

Pickett begins his investigation, but is stymied by some of the
local park rangers who appear to distrust him as an outsider for
more than one reason. He already knows the who, what, where and how
of the murders, but is puzzled by the why. As he begins to
investigate the reasons behind the cold-blooded, apparently
senseless killings, he slowly becomes aware that he and his family
are in the sights of an unknown, dangerous killer. Nate Romanowski,
Pickett's enigmatic friend, is there to help, even with the
potential jeopardy to his own freedom. Their friendship is
dramatically tested as they draw their investigation to a
cataclysmic conclusion, when it becomes clear that they can trust
nobody but each other.

C. J. Box is a marvel. I learned more about Yellowstone National
Park in the night it took me to read FREE FIRE than I did in 19
years of school. While the main plot is resolved, Box leaves enough
lines dangling for another two or three books to grab onto. If you
aren't addicted to him yet, then treat yourself to a copy of FREE
FIRE.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011

Free Fire: A Joe Picket Novel
by C. J. Box

  • Publication Date: May 6, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley
  • ISBN-10: 0425221245
  • ISBN-13: 9780425221242