In his time, Stewie Woods was the most active environmental activist imaginable. No dirty anti-establishment trick, from spiking timber to disabling bulldozers, was beneath him. So when he and his bride become casualties of an exploding cow, their passing is doubly ignominious. And that’s only the beginning of a series of equally inglorious deaths of tree-huggers. Woods biographer Hayden Powell is found dead drunk in the basement of his burned-out house; Green Congressman Peter Sollito is apparently killed by a hooker who got carried away; wolf-reintroduction advocate Emily Betts crashes her plane and becomes food for her own cargo; bears feast on litigious attorney Tod Marchand. All these silly, grisly stories are only a front, of course, for a homicidal pair of killers who’ve been paid to stamp out environmentalists from Washington to shining Washington. But Stewie’s death in Wyoming’s Bighorn National Forest catches the eye of local game warden Joe Pickett, a man who’s “not very good about letting things drop” and has the scars to prove it. Starting with Jim Finotta, the hobbyist rancher whose hot-wired livestock made Stewie Woods’s quietus, Joe battles every human power in sight, eventually taking on Mother Nature herself in a bravura high-country chase, in order to make things right.
If the bad guys’ posturing makes them just a little too obvious from the beginning, Box still displays a gimlet eye for zealots, hypocrites, and poseurs of every stripe, from gentlemen ranchers to squeamish wolf-huggers—proving that Joe’s sizzling debut (Open Season, 2001) was no fluke.