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Friday, July 12, 2013


5 stars (out of 5)

What's in a name? If it happens to be mine, you can be sure I'll take notice. I first discovered C.J. Box's series featuring Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett years ago with the first - Open Season - simply because Pickett is my family name. I'd have read it just because of that, but the fact that it fell into the genre of books I love most made me even more eager to check it out.

That was then - 2001 - and I've been a happy reader ever since. As always, I couldn't wait to get the 13th and latest, Breaking Point, on my Kindle. And like all the others, it was hard to put it down and the ending, which of course I won't reveal, made me want to learn what happens next.

Part of the books' appeal is that they're not simply about the game warden and his adventures, but his wife and children as well. But now, his daughters are practically grown (one is in college), and I was curious to see how the family dynamic would be worked into this story. And in fact, while Joe's wife Marybeth has a bit of a role here, there seemed to me to be noticeably less emphasis on the family angle in this installment. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out in the next book in the series.

This one, which brings into play the dire consequences of government power gone wrong, is based on a true story that ended up before the Supreme Court (Sackett v. EPA 2012). Butch Roberson, Joe's family friend and business owner, has become the target of the Environmental Protection Agency, which apparently is out to get him by ruining everything he's tried hard to build up by declaring a tract of land on which Butch and his wife plan to build a retirement home a protected wetland. But then, two EPA agents are murdered, and the evidence points to Butch as the killer - suggesting that he he may have reached his breaking point.

As Butch goes on the run, a manhunt ensues, and it becomes clear that the powers-that-be aren't looking to capture him alive. As the local game warden and a man who is familiar with Butch, Joe is called into service to assist in the hunt. But early on he begins to suspect that something is very wrong and that some of the very people who employ him may be less than honorable - and who, by the end, bring Joe to a breaking point of his own. 

If I have a criticism, I suppose it would be that almost all of the U.S. government folks are shown in a much less-than-positive light - bringing to mind the political rants late author Vince Flynn would insert into his novels (for the record, he's a favorite author too). At the same time, author Box is a life-long resident of Wyoming, so I'm sure the Sackett case struck a few personal chords. And, much of the criticism is justified; sometimes, the government really is out to get you.  

Breaking Point by C.J. Box (Putnam Adult March 2013); 384 pp.

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