Friday, October 14, 2011

Review of Open Season by CJ Box (2001, Corvus)

Joe Pickett is a relatively green game warden in Saddlestring in the Twelve Sleep Range, Wyoming. With two young girls and another baby on the way he’s struggling to make ends meet given his meager salary. After he’s disarmed by an outfitter and he lets the incident ride, his unpopular status is added to as a figure of fun. That is only the start of his problems. When his seven year old daughter, Sheridan, claims to have seen a monster in the back yard, Pickett is skeptical. The monster however is the same outfitter that disarmed him. Only he’s now dead. At the camp he’s just ridden from, Pickett, another warden and a deputy find two other hunters shot dead, seemingly killed by another hunter. The case is quickly closed, but Pickett is not satisfied. When he continues to investigate, his life starts to get a whole lot worse.

It took me a little while to get into Open Season. Box writes in short, often flat sentences, and the beginning is spent largely developing the characters and family relations. Gradually the story opens up and the prose becomes a bit more expressive. The strength of Open Season is the sense of place, contextualisation and the plotting. Box does a good job of placing the reader in the mountain and small town landscape of Wyoming, and in framing the work of game wardens and the social politics concerning their work. The plot develops nicely, the tension slowly ratcheting up. It’s clear from quite a long way out that what is going on and who the bad guys are, and that Pickett will ultimately win out, but it matters little; the reader is still kept on the edge of their seat. The characterization is well done, especially with regards to Pickett’s family. Overall, Open Season puts in place a very solid foundation for the rest of the series.

4 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Rob - So glad you liked this novel. I'm biased, I know, but I think this is a fine series. I agree with you, too, that Box does an excellent job of providing context and placing the reader in the setting. The characters develop well, too, I think, as the series goes on.

Maxine said...

Glad you liked this. I started this series when recuperating, and it was perfect for that - light reading without being trivial or fanciful.

SteveHL said...

A very good series, I agree. Box also won a best-novel Edgar in 2009 for a stand-alone book, Blue Heaven. It's a fine book, as long as the reader is not a retired police officer.

Ron Scheer said...

OPEN SEASON is the only Box novel I've read. I thoroughly enjoyed the characters, the rural social context, and the whole business of being a game warden. The plot, I thought, was pretty predictable, and I haven't hurried to read more, though I believe this was his first Joe Pickett novel, and I'm sure Box got better. Thanks.