Nowhere to Run by C.J.Box: A review

After successively reading two relatively long and dense literary novels with complicated plots, I felt the need for something simple and undemanding. I thought of C.J. Box's Joe Pickett series.

This is actually the tenth book in that series. Hard to believe I've read that many; they all sort of elide together in the memory.

I like Joe Pickett and his family. He's an honorable man trying to do a job that he loves and believes is important. His wife and daughters are believable people with whom the reader can empathize. 

In the last novel, the Picketts learned that the foster daughter who they thought was dead was very much alive and living in Chicago in rather desperate circumstances. They brought her home but she has many problems emanating from her hard life and she is a disruptive influence in the family, constantly at war with her two sisters.

Joe had been sent away from his home and family for a year to be the temporary game warden in Baggs, Wyoming. At the beginning of this book, he's in his last week of that assignment and looking forward to going home. Somehow the reader suspects that this is not going to go off on schedule.

The first part of this book is a nail-biting thriller in which Joe comes up against two seemingly superhuman mountain men (brothers) who have been terrorizing the region and, most importantly from Joe's point of view, breaking game laws. When he tries to hold them accountable for their breaches of the law, their ruthless and violent nature is revealed. They follow him as he leaves their camp, eventually attacking him and his horses. They kill the horses, wound him, and take all his supplies. He's left with nothing but his service weapon and the clothes on his back.

Of course, Joe is used to surviving in the wild, so, in spite of his serious leg wound, he continues on his way down the mountain, even as he's being tracked by a pack of wolves - wolves that aren't supposed to be there. 

Eventually, he happens upon the cabin of a recluse woman who dresses his wound and shelters him. But then the crazy brothers, who are friends and protectors of the woman, show up and Joe has to escape out a back window and later watches from a distance as the three burn the cabin.

Okay. So far the story was an exciting, page-turning read, as we wonder how Joe is going to escape from another fine mess he's gotten into. But then the narrative takes a turn and becomes essentially a right-wing libertarian screed. Government bad! Mountain men good! Even when they terrorize the neighborhood and destroy other people's property, slaughter wildlife, attack a game warden just trying to do his job, and eventually kill at least four people. They just want to be left alone! And being left alone to do as one pleases is the highest good in this philosophy.

A great proponent of this philosophy is Joe's friend, Nate Romanowski, and most of the arguments for it are spoken by him, as were, in the last book, the arguments regarding denial of human-caused climate change. He finds a soul mate in the woman recluse on the mountain, both of them great fans of Ayn Rand, and we are treated to their admiring discussion of Atlas Shrugged and their denigration of European socialism. 

One suspects that C.J. Box, too, is an admirer of Ayn Rand and that his writing is influenced by her. He manages to get those arguments against government and any kind of regulation into every one of his books, and always - ALWAYS! - the law enforcement authorities from the local sheriff to the FBI are corrupt and only out to thwart the work of the only honorable man, Joe Pickett. Joe Pickett who strongly objects to being referred to as "the government man," even though that's exactly what he is.

I don't know. The plot of this book has holes that a herd of pronghorns could run through and I'm beginning to lose patience with Box, but then I've never read Atlas Shrugged so before I write him off completely, maybe I should read it. At the same time, I would encourage him to study the benefits of European socialism a little more closely and with an open mind.

My rating: 2 of 5 stars      


  1. I don't think that there are many benefits to European socialism, or any other kind for that matter. Social democracies heavily tax their citizenry to fund public programs that are far from perfect, however their good intentions, while the actual kind of socialism suppresses all kinds of personal freedom, from the right to express oneself to the right of an individual to decide what to eat, if they find something good and legitimate to eat at all. Not to mention the "effectiveness" of the police state, in which neighbor is pitted against neighbor, in which there are two social classes (not rich or mega-rich, middle class and poor), but elite and everybody else. The elite ruling class has all the privileges that are denied to the regular citizen, from foreign travel, to stay at luxury hotels in their own country, to foreign, elite schools for their children, and on and on.

    I lament that you didn't like this book and that you are finding their premises annoying. Like you, I don't like preaching in my reading, especially not the kind I don't agree with. However, with as many books as you read any given year, you are bound to find some that you don't like at all. :-)

    1. We'll have to agree to disagree about socialism and libertarianism. I'm not sure what model you are using in your description of socialism. It's not anything that I recognize. It sounds more like fascism to me.

    2. If you say so... Maybe the model of socialism that you know about is the one much talked about in books, because the "actual" socialism is really as I described above. I lived it, I'd know. Maybe you have never talked to someone from the Eastern former Communist block? That would be enlightening in ways you could not imagine. The legacy of "True Socialism" in human history is having ended the lives of 100 million people by famine, persecution, labor camps, or all combined.

    3. And yet when we see surveys of countries where people are happiest or most satisfied with their circumstances and those that are healthiest and have the longest life spans, they are almost invariably countries (Norway, Finland, e.g.) that have governments with varying degrees of socialism. I don't know what country you lived in and certainly Eastern European countries of the late 20th century and, in many instances still today, had and have very brutal forms of government. Living under such a regime would certainly influence one's thinking.

    4. The brutal form of government of those Eastern European and some Asian countries too is called socialism. Countries like Norway and Finland are social democracies, and it would be interesting to find their rates of taxation. Their long life spans and happiness have more to do with their way of life than, I dare say, their form of government. Quality of life has much to do with enjoying an active social life, not overworking to death (certainly not beyond retirement age), eating well, being relatively free from worries concerning your socio-economic level... Have you wondered if those factors don’t play more prominent roles in their lives than living under a socialist form of government?

    5. Actually, I think the two go hand in hand and are very much related. Their rates of taxation are extremely high, but the basic necessities of life, including health care which bankrupts so many Americans, are paid for and those with whom I am familiar are perfectly happy to pay those taxes.

  2. This author keeps popping up when I search for new books to read, and I had thought about picking up one of his books. I don't think I could stomach his philosophy, though. Thanks for the review--I'll skip this author now and stick to my favorites.

    1. Box is a good writer and I like his characters of the Pickett family, so I keep returning to the series, but the further along I get the more he seems to be grooming his character Nate Romanowski as a proponent of the "sovereign citizen" beliefs which I just find jarring. Craig Johnson is another good writer who writes about the same area of the world without (at least as far as I've read in his series) the political aspect.

  3. Interesting. Hubby just finished Blood Trail and I asked him about this libertarian streak. He hadn't noticed it he said, but that doesn't mean it is not there. I used to like Ayn Rand when I first read her but she is mostly mocked mercilessly now. I have an acquaintance who is libertarian and we are friendly about our differences.

    1. Blood Trail was one of the best - if not the best - of this series that I've read so far, and it did not have the political aspect to it that these last two books have had. I don't know if Box is going off in a new direction or if these two are aberrations. The latter one hopes.


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