The second novel about Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett not only meets the standard of the first, Open Season, but exceeds it. This series is shaping up to be highly readable. Savage Run has a simpler, leaner plot, without an element of “whodunnit” suspense, and without Joe’s children taking centre stage. The theme is (again) environmentalists versus ranchers/landowners, this time the environmentalists concerned are those who create a lot of publicity for their cause by breaking the law or protesting volubly. One of them, for example, attempts to fly a plane full of wolves from Canada to Wyoming, in order to reintroduce these animals into their “natural environment”.
The author does not take sides, though his evident love for the land and its natural resources are very clear, and represented by his simple, direct hero Joe. Joe is perpetually torn between his instinctive sympathy for those in his community who are increasingly struggling to make ends meet as the land is bought out by rich corporations or magnates, and his strong disapproval of those who break the law he is employed to enforce, for example by hunting or fishing out of season.
In Savage Run, extremist environmentalists are being ruthlessly targeted in various parts of the country. Joe and one of them, an entertaining (though initially irritating) character who turns out to have a previous friendship with Joe’s wife Marybeth, find themselves in an unlikely alliance, being pursued across the ravines and mountains by an adversary who seems to be a reincarnation of the legendary Tom Horn. Unfortunately there is some violence, but toned down compared with the first novel – I hope the start of a trend.
I found this novel to be pleasantly engaging, telling a good story in an undemanding fashion. I liked the moral message and the small but important domestic dilemmas that Joe, a rather serious-minded character, constantly faces. His struggle to become accepted by the community in which he lives seems to be destined to failure, given his policing role – which he carries out with an assiduousness not shared by the sheriff or with other authority figures.
I purchased the US mass market edition of this novel. It was first published in the USA in 2002, and is being published in the UK later this year by Corvus, together with the other novels in the series.
My review of Open Season, the first in this series.