A solid 4 stars.
Open Season is the first entry in the long-running Joe Pickett series by C.J. Box. It’s a police procedural mystery thriller set in Saddlestring, Wyoming where Pickett is a U.S. Game and Fish warden for Twelve Sleep County.
This is definitely an unusual setting since the area is so sparsely populated that the number of characters in the story is pretty small. Joe is the main character and he lives in Saddlestring with his pregnant wife Marybeth and his two daughters Sheridan and Lucy. Vern Dunnegan is his mentor (and previously held the warden job Joe now has). His best friend seems to be Wacey Hedeman, the warden in the next county. The other prominent character in the book is Sheriff Bud Barnum.
Since hunting and fishing is such a huge activity in Twelve Sleep County Joe is a very important person in the county, rivaling the Sheriff. There are very many non-local people who pass through his country taking advantage of the natural bounty to hunt, kill and trap the animals there. But sometimes some of these people get killed as well and that’s the start of our mystery. The body of a local guy (named Ote Keeley) is found with a seeping gunshot wound to the stomach in Joe’s garage.
The source of the suspense is that Joe’s family (especially his 7-year old daughter Sheridan) becomes involved in the investigation of what happened to Ote and eventually more dead bodies are found which leads Joe to discover a pretty big conspiracy.
Joe is an interesting character who (like most characters that these kinds of mystery series are built around) is flawed in many ways but in this case also has a very strong law-abiding core. He goes pretty wild when his family is threatened (for good reason). I believe I will read more books in the series because I’m curious to see what will happen to Joe (and his family, especially Sheridan) in the following books and to find out how Box has been able to come up with over a dozen compelling stories set in the sparsely populated Wyoming countryside featuring Joe Pickett. This one was a pretty quick read and quite suspenseful; definitely a solid entry into the mystery genre.
Title: Open Season.
Author: C.J. Box.
Paperback: 278 pages.
Date Published: May 7, 2001.
Date Read: March 28, 2018.
GOODREADS RATING: ★★★★☆ (4.0/5.0).
OVERALL GRADE: A- (3.67/4.0).