Out of Range by C.J. Box: A review

Out Of Range (Joe Pickett, #5)Out Of Range by C.J. Box
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

C.J. Box has always portrayed his hero Game Warden Joe Pickett as a paragon of virtue. He's not necessarily the sharpest tool in the box but he's always squeaky clean - at least in his intentions. Out of Range gives a slightly new twist to his character.

Pickett's friend and fellow game warden, Will Jensen, is found dead in his state-owned house in Jackson, Wyoming. The cause of death was a gunshot to the head and the weapon is lying by his side. It appears to be a clear-cut case of suicide. It is made more clear-cut by the fact that Jensen had been acting crazy and very much out of character for several months before his death.

The Teton district that was Jensen's charge was an epicenter for many environmentalist causes, as well as an elite playground for the rich and powerful - including a certain vice-president who makes a cameo appearance here. It is about as different from the sleepy little town of Saddlestring, where Joe Pickett hangs his hat, as a place can be. It is a potentially big step up when Pickett is selected to run the Teton district, at least on a temporary basis.

Leaving Saddlestring and his family behind, Joe drives to Jackson in his beat up old pickup. Immediately on arriving, he feels himself completely out of place there and over his head.

As he takes up his new post, he reviews Will Jensen's notebooks and finds that the last one is missing. He begins searching for it and also searching for an explanation as to why Will would kill himself. He soon begins to wonder if he really did. He finds that no autopsy and no toxicology tests were done on the body. Furthermore, the body has been cremated. It all seems highly suspicious.

Joe becomes even more suspicious when he learns that Will was being pressured by a local high-powered, well-connected developer to sign off on a "good food" planned village that he was hoping to build. The problem was his "village" would disrupt migration routes for elk and grizzly bears.

Joe meets the developer who begins pressuring him as well. He also meets the developer's wife and feels an instant electric attraction to her, an attraction he soon finds is reciprocated.

Meanwhile, wife Marybeth has been left at home with their two daughters, including one who is now a rebellious teenager. She has them plus her job to deal with and the family has been receiving scary anonymous phone calls. Joe had asked his friend Nate to keep an eye on the family in his absence and he does. Sheridan, the teenage daughter, thinks he is keeping a little too close an eye on her mother and Marybeth seems to enjoy his company maybe just a little too much. It looks like the Pickett marriage may be sailing into some rough waters.  

Joe carries out his duties in his typical bumbling fashion, but, of course, as always he manages somehow to reach the right conclusions and to ensure that a kind of rough justice is done.

I found this fifth in the Joe Pickett series to be an interesting read. The writing is not particularly scintillating. It sort of bumbles along much like Joe, but somehow it manages to get to the right place in the end.

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