The sixth Joe Pickett novel is a grim affair, which starts with Joe falling even lower in the estimation of his superiors and the bureaucracy of the US Forest and Wildlife Service, a situation which has arisen due to various changes at the top. Not only that, but the local election for sherriff, which Joe had thought could only result in an improvement on the despotic Barnum, has also made his situation worse, given the person who is now in charge. Increasingly reduced to behaving as a cog in a machine, having to gain permission from his supervisor for every action and having been assigned a truck that constantly breaks down so he can’t do even the basics of his job properly, Joe is at the end of his tether.
The plot of In Plain Sight is driven by a baddie called John Wayne Keeley, who seeks Joe to obtain revenge for a death in a previous novel – a death that was the opposite of Joe’s fault in fact. Keeley is of the blackest black, which as is so often the case renders the story less interesting. As well as suffering his immediate problems, Joe has dealings with the overbearing, feuding Scarlett family, who own a vast ranch and who regard themselves as the direct descendants of the founding fathers of Saddlestring. Joe’s daughter Sheridan is friends with Julie Scarlett, and it is a girls’ sleepover that provides Joe with the means to work out why things are going so wrong for him, and who is responsible.
In Plain Sight is not of the high standard of the previous novels in this series as well as being colder than them: Joe is a more taciturn, less sympathetic character now, having lost his essential optimism, and crosses a couple of lines that he would not have done previously. It does, however, leave the series in an interesting balance, as most of the previous certainties are now most definitely uncertain. It remains to be seen (by me) whether the author will carry through to address new horizons in the next installments, or if he will follow up on a hint in the shape of a brief interaction between Joe and a potentially powerful political ally, which could lead to a return to business as usual in future.
I purchased the Kindle edition of this novel, which was first published in 2006 by Berkley. All the Joe Pickett series is being published this year in the UK by Corvus.
My reviews of the previous novels in the series:
Open Season (# 1)
Savage Run (# 2)
Winterkill (# 3)
Trophy Hunt (# 4)
Out of Range (# 5)