Savage Run is the second book in C.J. Box’s Warden Joe Pickett mystery series set in Saddlestring, Wyoming. I rad the first one, Open Season, earlier this year and liked it a lot. I know the series is quite popular, because on Goodreads these books often have thousands of ratings and hundreds of reviews which are overwhelming positive in general.
There are several good features of the Joe Pickett books: they are relatively short (under 300 pages), feature characters and settings that are unusual (wide-open countryside, cowboys and other rural residents) and are relatively suspenseful with thriller elements.
There are problematic aspects of the books as well. Joe Pickett is VERY taciturn and shockingly inept when it comes to the political aspects of his job as a state Fish & Game Warden in Wyoming. He is stubborn and doesn’t seem to make great decisions furthering his interests. His family of a wife and 2 girls is living in a state-furnished house and paycheck-to-paycheck but his actions frequently endanger his employment status. He often puts himself in danger by following leads by himself without any back up. He doesn't appreciate the unwritten rules which maintain the power structures in his state.
Savage Run was interesting because the plot was basically about the fight between environmentalists and ranchers in the 1990s. The body count is larger than in the previous book but this serves to raise the stakes of what and who are involved. Also this time we were provided the perspective of the perpetrators, not just Joe's as he tries to figure out why and how someone was killed by an exploding cow. (The wry humor is another point in favor of these books.) In the end Joe is lucky to survive his showdown with some “tree huggers” and their opponents. (I don't really think this is a spoiler since this is book 2 in a series which is approaching 19 entries.)
Overall I enjoyed the book but I’m not convinced that these mysteries will be able to keep my attention to finish out the entire series. As I've said before, an important factor in evaluating the strength of a series is the attention the author pays to fleshing out the secondary characters (or sidekicks) in addition to the coplexity of the character of the protagonist. Joe is not complex, but he is an unusual "front man" for a murder mystery/police procedural and the setting of the books is definitely interesting. The secondary characters are basically his wife Marybeth and his young daughters. In, Savage Run Marybeth plays a larger role but his daughter Sheridan (who had a pivotal role in the first book) does not. Pickett does a lot of his work as a "lone wolf" and that's both a strength and weakness of the book(s).
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Title: Savage Run.
Author: C.J. Box.
Paperback: 304 pages.
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons.
Date Published: May 6, 2003.
Date Read: August 4, 2018.
GOODREADS RATING: ★★★½☆ (3.5/5.0).
OVERALL GRADE: A- (3.33/4.0).