John Shannon is one of my favorite crime writers. C. J. Box is another. Yesterday I read about half of the latest in Box’s Joe Pickett series, Free Fire, and over lunch I made it to page 192. As much as I love reading, there are times when opening a book is about as exciting as picking up a shovel to dig a camp latrine.
This is not one of those times.
Reading Free Fire gives me the rarest of sensations, making me feel not like a professional paid to offer a cold-blooded assessment but like a fan who can’t wait to keep turning the pages of the newest book by his favorite author. It’s series gold, a perfect blend of the fresh and the familiar. And it’s really, really fun. I’m already kind of bummed out, knowing that I’ll be done reading in a day or two.
In April I wrote at length about In Plain Sight (2006) and my feeling that it wasn’t up to Box’s usual stellar standards (see Out of Range ). So when I picked up Free Fire I was hoping that it would be a return to form. Much as it seems unfair to hold Box to his own high standards–it hardly seems possible that a series can get better indefinitely–I want each new book to be as terrific as the last.
(Like an addict, I also wonder sometimes if it’s the potency of the stuff that’s diminishing or if I’m merely learning to metabolize it better.)
Anyway, it’s too early to say for sure–it depends on how things wrap up–but so far, Free Fire definitely feels like a return to form.
Welcome back, Joe Pickett.