Top critical review
A C.J. Box book that unfortunately doesn't fit in the box.
Reviewed in the United States on April 28, 2018
There's a rule of thumb included in most how-to-write-a-book books to the effect that an author should never impose a plot on his or her characters, but should allow the plot to grow out of them. Mr. Box, who is one of my favorite authors, forgot to follow that rule in this one, and it suffers as a result.
Joe Picket, the protagonist in this and all other C. J. Box books to date, is a wonderful character, and the author has put us so inside the character in the other books that we KNOW what Joe is likely to think and do in almost any situation. But Mr. Box evidently felt the need to crank up the tension this time around, and for whatever reason introduces events that do increase the suspense but which violate the character of Joe Pickett that has been established. It's a shame. Out of Range therefore falls outside the range (!) of the series, which otherwise gets at least four stars per book, and sometimes five.
Joe, the Wyoming Game Warden usually working and living in a mythical Twelve Sleep County, including the only slightly mythical town of Saddlestring, is sent to deal with the aftermath of another warden's apparent suicide in the Jackson Hole area. Needless to say, the suicide is not what it at first appears to be, but Joe feels himself falling into the same mess that caused the other guy's death, with the implication that Joe is headed for the same fate. We know of course that it will all turn out all right, otherwise the next dozen books wouldn't exist (!), but the plot revolves around how he's going to escape with his sanity and his life.
The main plot does grow out of the characters, thankfully. It's a couple of contrived subplots that violate our picture of who Joe Pickett is. C.J. Box is a good enough writer that this episode in the series is worth reading in spite of the problems. I just wish it was as good as the others.