by Bruce TierneyMay, 2005
Way out West
Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett returns in C.J. Box's Out of Range. As the book opens, Pickett's archnemesis, his mother-in-law (did you know that "mother-in-law" is a perfect anagram of "woman Hitler"?) is about to be married for the fourth time. It has been quite the production, referred to by close participants as "Operation Massive Ranch Wedding," albeit never within earshot of the prospective bride. During the reception, Pickett receives the news that fellow game warden Will Jensen has committed suicide, and that he (Pickett) has been tapped to be a temporary replacement. It means a short-term move to Jackson Hole, as dissimilar an assignment as can be imagined within the confines of Wyoming. Here Joe will have to navigate a minefield of developers, conservationists, politicians, wealthy landowners and one problematic affair of the heart. Problem one: she's married. Problem two: so's he. Problem three: and not to each other. As if this weren't enough, there is plenty of strain on the home front anonymous threatening phone calls, an obstinate daughter in the throes of early womanhood and some of the most recalcitrant cell phones in the history of communications. In the midst of all this, Pickett can't seem to shake the notion that there is more to Will Jensen's apparent suicide than meets the eye. Box captures the struggles of a family trying to make ends meet on a civil servant's salary, the workaday life of a game warden and the vast powers of humans pitted against nature (and other humans, for that matter) in one of the last wilderness areas of the continental U.S.