I've just finished reading Open Season by C.J. Box. Corvus are part way through a mass release of Box's titles and I'm a few months behind... but after reading the first in the Joe Pickett series, I wish I'd picked it up sooner.
For some reason I can't quite put my finger on, I did not expect to enjoy this book. Maybe the story just seemed quite alien to my own experiences. Plus I've drenched myself in Northern Irish crime fiction for the last few years. Could be I've fashioned myself a pair of literary blinkers, so it's probably a very good thing that I've gone for something completely different this time.
The story follows Pickett, a game warden in Twelve Sleep, Wyoming, who is thrown into the ordeal of his life after a man who once terribly embarrassed him in the line of duty, arrives in the middle of the night and dies from gunshot wounds in Joe Pickett's backyard. Pickett fixates on the fact that his visitor, Ote, carried with him an empty cooler. Well, not quite empty. He finds some small droppings that he, a man of nature, can't identify and his imagination is captured. From this point the conspiracy begins to untangle. Pickett must face many challenges, both physical and emotional, in an attempt to do the right thing and protect his family.
The most appealing aspect of this novel, to me, is the depth of Joe Pickett's character. C.J. Box gives us an endearing protagonist with a strong set of morals and a few special skills that sets him apart from Joe Ordinary. However, Box also expertly implants a few flaws that will keep the reader in a constant state of worry. Joe has many "bone-head" moments that seem to bring him as much trouble as any of the sinister outside elements he encounters. It is impossible to dislike this character, though at times you can pity him a little too much. I'm interested in seeing how he develops throughout the rest of the series.
Another element of this novel that kept me turning pages is the otherworldliness of the setting. This was first published in 2001 and as such, mobile phone technology (to take one example) is pretty much absent (which at times heightens the tension). Also, Wyoming is a part of the world that I knew relatively little about before approaching this book. But after living in Joe Pickett's head for almost 300 pages, I feel like I've learned a little something about a society that is highly passionate about guns and seasonal hunting (hence the need for game wardens like Joe Pickett, I guess).
So, if you're looking for something altogether different, maybe Open Season, in the heart of a beautifully portrayed Wyoming, is the book for you this summer.
Wyoming - friendly. When I had to leave a bar in Cheyenne to catch a bus to Salt Lake City, one of the guys I'd just met and been drinking with, rushed out and pressed a brown paper bag into my hand as I stood in the doorway of the Greyhound. "Take this," he said. "You'll need it."
Door closed. I sat down. Bus pulled away. I waved. Then I opened the bag.
A bottle of peach schnapps. He was right. I did.
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