The recipient of Edgar, Anthony, and Macavity Awards, New York Times best-selling author C. J. Box has won almost every honor in his field. In Breaking Point, Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett is glad to catch up with old friend Lyle Pendergast, but then the man goes missing and is named a suspect in the death of two EPA employees. All signs point to Lyle’s guilt, but the more Joe digs into the case, the more he realizes he’s stepped into the middle of a deadly power play.
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Starting back in the mid 1980's, I was one of the few lawyers who was trying to defend rural landowners like the Roberson's, the endangered protagonists of "Breaking Point". When I say "trying", that's what I mean: As author Box suggests, these federal agents operate outside the Congressionally-enacted law, with unpublished rules and regulations, to the point that it's almost impossible to clear your clients in these cases. Besides, if you try to fight back, they just throw in more charges -- again, as Box suggests. The best you can do is to try to work out some plan that will let your client keep some portion of his land -- although by the time they get done defending themselves, most abandon the farm. Everything they valued has been destroyed. It got so bad that by the mid-1990's, I had to quit. I decided that if I had another sobbing farm wife sitting in my office, listening while I had to explain that there really wasn't much that could be done other than to work out a "deal", I'd go crazy myself. Like my clients, I too walked away. It just hurt too much.
A few things in "Breaking Point" are fiction: I never had a client kill, or even try to kill, a federal agent -- but I did have two who killed themselves. The trauma of having your farm -- in your family for over 100 years -- plowed, planted and harvested every year -- suddenly declared a "wetland" and therefore off limits, subject to horrendous penalties if "disturbed", is just too devastating. Can planted acres be a "wetland"? Indeed. Under federal law, a "wetland" is determined by soil type -- it has nothing to do with its being "wet". No self-respecting duck would ever look at this land, let alone land there. All that's required to constitute a "wetland" is a particular soil type -- merely that the land WOULD SUPPORT hydrophytic vegetation IF IT WERE wet, is enough. Kafkaesque, certainly, but entirely true.
There's more in this book than just the trauma faced by the Roberson family -- the range fire at the end, the tense escape, is one of the best white-knuckle scenes in history. Box is so good that you can picture the whole thing, feel the heat.
As far as I know, C. J. Box is only one of two popular authors who dares to make federal agents the 'bad guys' in some of his books -- P. T. Deutermann being the other. And why not? It's not just pharmaceutical company owners, businessmen, religious leaders and Republicans who do bad things, as virtually every other contemporary author would have you believe. Sometimes there are rogue federal agents, too.
I just can't get enough of C J Box's writing! I've often said that a good book for me, is one with a great story line, or one with great writing, Box's books are always the best of both! Each successive Joe Picket, Wyoming Fish and Game Warden, novel just gets better and better. Characterization, descriptions, conflicts between good and evil, and the pull between legal justice and moral justice are enhanced by stories that connect to headlines of the day. Box mixes each mystery, with a continuing family story, and a fictional accounting of non-fiction reality.
When one of Joe's friends is accused of murder, Joe becomes involved in ways that he'd never imagined. Lyle, and his wife, have finally gotten a piece of land on which to build their own home. Permits in hand, Lyle begins grading the land when EPA employees come and demand that he return the land to exactly as he's found it previously. The fine for not doing so will be $70,000 a day. And why is this happening? Lyle is told it's because his land has been declaimed 'protected wetlands'. With no water at all on his land, he questions this declaration. But no one at the EPA has any paperwork , nor are they answering his repeated phone calls. So this story begins, and ends in disaster when two EPA agents are murdered, and an all out man hunt is begun by the EPA to "kill the murderer."
This case is based on a real case in North Dakota, that bends credulity. There are other actions , also based on "truth" that just may blow your mind. Joe is caught up in the manhunt, as determined by the Governor, but the more and more that things progress, Joe begins to realize that there is something more that just doesn't make sense. An edge of your seat story keeps the suspense until the very last page!! I think I love you C J Box!!!! Never stop telling stories in books!!