Wyoming Fish and Game Warden Joe Pickett, who attracts trouble the way carcasses attract maggots (Force of Nature, 2012, etc.), gets in the line of fire between an old friend and the Feds.
When two EPA agents, sent all the way from Denver to take contractor Butch Roberson into custody. are shot to death, Butch himself is the obvious suspect. But Joe, who saw Butch only hours before he disappeared, can’t help wondering why the EPA was so interested in Butch, whose attempt to build a new house for his family in Aspen Highlands blew up in his face, and why the new, race-baiting EPA regional director Juan Julio Batista has taken such a personal interest in the case. Joe has no time for any speculations, though, before he’s pressed into service to lead an ill-equipped EPA party searching for Butch up the mountain where he was last seen. Little does Joe know that he’s not the only one on the hunt. His old nemesis, ex-Sheriff Kyle McLanahan, has heard the rumor of a big reward for bringing in Butch and has gotten Dave Farkus, a clueless employee Butch fired, to lead him and Jimmy Sollis, the no-account brother of slain deputy Trent Sollis, to Butch first. Box doles out complications and misfortunes with masterly control; each time you’re convinced things can’t get any worse for Butch or Joe, they do, usually in unexpected ways. And every twist tightens the analogy between the shiftless vigilantes after Butch and the Feds determined to capture or kill him, two parties that are not only equally villainous, but villainous in exactly the same way.
Its basis in a real-life conflict makes Joe’s 13th case one of his most tendentious, but it’s Box who makes it one of his most exciting.