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Saturday, June 13, 2015

FREE FIRE (Joe Picket #7) by C.J. Box

Published in May of 2008

In the previous book in the Joe Pickett series, In Plain Sight, Joe lost his job as a Wyoming game warden. In this book Joe gets his job back, sort of. Governor Rulon, a man who delights in doing things that irritate bureaucracies, has offered him a chance to work as a Game Warden "without portfolio" (as they might say in diplomatic circles). Joe is an independent agent, working for the Governor but the Governor wants plausible deniability for everything Joe does.

The Governor offers this to Joe because of a situation that developed in Yellowstone National Park. A local attorney went into a part of the park that is in Idaho, shot four campers and then turned himself in. The campers all worked for Zephyr, a private contractor that runs the hotels, the gift shops and does the maintenance around the park. But, due to a loophole in the law described in detail here he was not able to be tried for anything. Due to federal law and his right to a trial by jury the attorney was simply not able to be brought to trial and he walked away.

The Governor sends Joe in to see if the Park Rangers and the FBI have done a thorough job of investigating. Specifically, he wants to know why the attorney killed the campers - his claim that they made fun of him and he took their guns away from them and shot them just does not sound plausible.

The Governor makes it clear that he is not sending Joe because Joe is some sort of genius investigator. Instead, he knows that Joe has a way of blundering around a case until something shakes loose. 

So, armed with a new badge, a new truck and unofficially accompanied by his fugitive friend Nate Romanowski, Joe heads off to Yellowstone and discovers that there is way more to this case than anyone has told the press...


Free Fire is much more gritty and brutal than most of the books in the series. There are lots of descriptions of the beauty and wonder of Yellowstone and I would imagine if you have not been you would find yourself a little overwhelmed by the descriptions. If anything, C.J. Box has restrained himself in his descriptions of one of the most amazing places on the planet. The sheer size of the park becomes an issue. It reminded me of the Chee/Leaphorn books where long rides in the truck become a routine part of the story.

For fear of spoilers I will not describe any more of the mystery, but I will say that the science of the park and the strange community that has developed around it make this a unique and fascinating book.

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon here: Free Fire: A Joe Pickett Novel

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