Customer Review

Reviewed in the United States on February 17, 2014
The quote in the title comes from a Fed near the end of this novel. It is indicative of C.J. Box's Joe Pickett series for it is not just the Feds Pickett cannot trust. Throughout the series, Pickett has to fight the bureaucracies of local, state and federal agencies in order to get the bad guy. He also gets caught between tree huggers vs greedy developers, animal rights activists vs poachers and law vs justice.

In the Joe Pickett books, there are no good guys other than Pickett, his family and friend Nate. Oh, there is the occasional breakthrough like the female park ranger character in "Free Fire" but, on the whole, most every other character in the series is ruthless, ambitious, violent or incompetent. Everyone seems to have an agenda from the unrealistic and dogmatic environmentalist to the unethical and money-grubbing businessman. Nobody escapes C.J. Box's skewering in these books.

"Free Fire" is a fine example of how frustrating life is for Joe Pickett and how he has to deal with the corruption all around him in his pursuit of justice. In "Free Fire", Pickett is engaged by the new governor to investigate a murder in Yellowstone National Park. Pickett gets his old job back as Wyoming game warden but he is conducting his investigation on the sly--the governor has plausible deniability and offers little in the way of support for the assignment he has given Pickett. The fly in the ointment of the murder itself is that there is no legal way to try the murderer because it took place in the "Zone of Death" within Yellowstone--an area of the country where no one resides to act as peers for a jury in a criminal trial. To further complicate matters, the park officials would just as soon forget the whole incident to avoid further bad publicity that might blemish their careers.

Pickett's insecurity and self doubt gets on your nerves after a while. You just want to slap him and tell him to stop beating himself up over every incident in his life and get on with it. But we all have self doubt at times and can identify with Pickett's dilemmas and stress. You also get frustrated when Pickett runs into the power structures that offer no support. In the end, the story does reach resolution but only to the extent that the bad guys face some forms of justice. In the end, Pickett still has to deal with the corruption and deceit of government officials. Makes for a good series of books.

I've been reading the whole Joe Pickett series in order and it keeps getting better. The books aren't always perfect (I've found a few editing mistakes and errors of fact along the way) but they are enjoyable. And frustrating.
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