Free Fire, a review by Joanna

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Free Fire

CJ Box

352 pages

Published in 2007


This is the seventh book in the Joe Pickett series, about a Wyoming game warden with a nose for trouble. It has been sitting on my unread shelf for seven years, and about four years ago I read the previous book (In Plain Sight) and only gave it two stars. I decided to give the author another chance, as he gets lots of good reviews, but thought I might end up abandoning it. As I happens, I enjoyed this one quite a bit more – not sure if it’s just a better story or being in a different frame of mind. (I hardly remember anything about the previous book’s plot – events from it are referred to but you don’t get much recap.)

Having been fired from his previous job, Joe is working for his wife Marybeth’s father, when the state governor makes him an offer: go to Yellowstone National Park to investigate a notorious mass shooting, and he’ll be reinstated. A nerdy lawyer killed four people in a small area of the park which falls between jurisdictions, meaning by a quirk of the law he could not be tried, so got away with it. Joe suspects there’s more going on than the park authorities are willing to admit, so alongside plucky park ranger Judy Denning, and his loyal outlaw friend Nate, uncovers a secret worth killing for.
I think I would have enjoyed both these books more had I started from the beginning, as there’s clearly a lot of character background and history I’ve missed out on – but while this was a decent if totally predictable thriller, I don’t feel motivated to source the preceding instalments, as I have multiple much better series on the go. Joe’s a frustrating hero – he means well, but his thoughtlessness and risk taking repeatedly gets other people hurt. This was published in 2007 but it felt more dated. There were various subplots left hanging at the end, and characters whose fates were left undecided – I presume the key ones will be addressed in the next book. I’m not ruling out reading it, but I’m not in any great rush to. 3.5 rounded up for the descriptions of Yellowstone that put it firmly back on my bucket list!

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