Free Fire is set in the hissing, steaming, quaking caldera of Yellowstone Park. At first the book made me want to go there. By the time I finished, I felt firmly determined never to go anywhere near it.
Elements in the story seemed so unbelievable, I kept wondering if the plot was based on anything near reality. Turns out it is. C. J. Box researched his subject deeply. There is in fact a "Zone of Death" in Yellowstone that falls into a legislative loophole, a fifty-square-mile area where it's possible to commit murder and walk away free. And there is bio mining of unique microbes by research firms going on in the park.
The story opens with Joe Pickett working on his father-in-law's ranch after being fired by his hostile boss. But amazingly, Joe gets offered back his game warden status by the governor, no less, for "special projects." Governor Rulon wants Joe to investigate a bizarre multiple murder in Yellowstone National Park. In the Zone of Death.
The lead villain is a sleazy braggart of a lawyer, quite a fascinating creep. And there are plenty of other unpleasant villains as well - some in high places. Joe is way above his head but too stubborn to quit, as always. Joe's friend Nate, the violent and mysterious outlaw falconer, makes an explosive appearance in this novel - with dire consequences.
Free Fire is not just a thriller, but an education in the ecology and geology of Yellowstone. It deserves five stars for atmosphere and ingenuity.