Customer Reviews: Open Season (Joe Pickett series)
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on July 31, 2001
There are so many things about C.J. Box's debut mystery that make it one of the best mysteries I have read, and hands-down the best first novel I've experienced in ANY genre. There is the moral compass and humanity of its protagonist, Joe Pickett: the Wyoming game warden as straight as he is flawed, the vivid descriptions of the wilds of Wyoming, the navigation of the story line as it twists through several shades of gray and the exquisite treatment of Sheridan, a child character as well-written as they come. When the poacher who held up Pickett with his own gun winds up dead on his backyard woodpile, Joe is puzzled by the poacher's choice of resting place and has no idea the significance of the cooler found next to him. This is Pickett�s introduction to a world of corporate exploitation, political angling and the threats against his family and his passion that drums up the stakes with every page turned. At times clumsy, always well-meaning and ultimately heroic in spite of his limitations, Joe is humanized in a way that preserves the nobility of the pure protagonist and makes us wish we could be as right when we were wrong. Box is an author who has stepped into the genre with a clean, fast and remarkably adept first novel. Keep an eye on C.J. Box. ....
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on July 6, 2001
While still a Wyoming state game warden trainee, Joe Pickett ticketed a man fishing without a license. The man turned out to be the state governor. One week after being assigned to Twelve Sleep County, Joe fines outfitter Ote Keeley for shooting a buck out of season. However, Ote takes Joe's gun away and points it at the game warden's head before calmly accepting his ticket. Though he continues working hard, Joe has never fully recovered from the Keeley incident.

A few months later, Keeley reenters Joe's life when his daughter finds the outfitter dead at the woodpile near the Pickett home. Next to the corpse is a cooler containing pellets of excrement. Joe and fellow warden Wacey Hedeman assist sheriff Bud Barnum with the investigation. However, soon Joe is in trouble with his superiors, his pregnant wife for jeopardizing his job, and with a killer trying to add a nosy game warden to the list.

OPEN SEASON is an entertaining police procedural tale that works because the author steps out of the box by insuring his star is not superman. Instead he is just an average Joe struggling with learning his new job, obtaining a decent standard of living for his family, and still trying to do the right thing. The story line is filled with twists and turns so that the audience into thinking h wrong person is the villain. The endangered species issue is well designed within the plot with C.J. Box cleverly laying it out so that the reader can decide on this complex question. Fans will want more Wyoming mysteries starring a guy named Joe.

Harriet Klausner
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on February 26, 2002
Dare I say "different" when speaking of a mystery/thriller? Just when I think I have seen every possible setting, hero/anti-hero, cozy, hard-boiled, police procedural out there; along comes "Open Season" with something new and fresh. Joe Pickett is as nice as they come, but prone to embarrassing errors. His family plays a starring role, not only with him but also as an integral part of the story. His wife and two daughters don't play cute characters or trite supporting roles; there would be no story without them.
Edgar-nominated, Mr. Box's debut novel is set in a Wyoming that could only be written by a native. Someone said a writer should write what he knows about; Mr. Box has followed the advice. He makes Wyoming so real, you can smell the air and feel the forest. He is also honest enough to admit all parts of Wyoming are not nature's paradise, but strikingly ugly. He understands and depicts the particular politics that are unique to small or under-populated states. When almost everyone is on a first name basis with the governor, everyone is in on some kind of a deal or another.
Joe is particularly shocked and offended when a body is found on his backyard woodpile. When three other bodies are found at the victim's outfitters camp, the case is closed quickly and neatly as a falling out among the four of them. Joe is not satisfied, no one is quite who they seem to be, and corruption at every level is gradually exposed. The closer Joe comes to a solution, the more his family is endangered until tension is at the snapping point.
"Open Season" has an agenda: the Endangered Species Act and is it a well thought out piece of legislation. Mr. Box thinks not, and whatever the reader believes, the book will give them something to consider. The characterizations are excellent; I was surprised at how much I cared. "Open Season" has my vote for the best mystery of the year.
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VINE VOICEon October 9, 2002
There are many things to like about C.J. Box's first novel.
For one thing, the protagonist, Joe Pickett, is a game warden in Twelve Sleep, Wyoming, a great setting. Box also does a good job with complications when a local hunting outfitter is found murdered in Joe's backyard. Joe had caught the outfitter poaching, but had been relieved of his gun when he'd begun to write the citation (Joe is much more fallible and believable than a lot of genre heroes). The game warden whom Joe had replaced is a local legend who'd quit his job to work for InterWest, a natural gas pipeline company with plans to build across the state(Unless those persnickety environmentalists find a reason to squelch matters). Joe is also having trouble making ends meet on his salary and his mother-in-law, who's always felt he wasn't good enough for her daughter, Marybeth, arrives to help with the children. The legendary game warden offers Joe a job with InterWest and he's tempted to take it. When two more dead outfitters are found and a possible suspect is also gunned down, most everybody is satisfied that the case has been solved. Except Joe. It's all much too cut and dried for him.
Probably the most engaging character in the book is Joe's seven-year-old daughter, Sheridan, who witnessed "the monster" stumble into Joe's backyard and pass out on the woodpile, leaving a little box full of animal feces from several Miller's weasels, an endangered species, whom Sheridan takes on as pets.
The plot of OPEN SEASON leaves a bit to be desired. There's an ambiguous chapter where a man, who's been watching her play with the weasels, threatens Sheridan. There are only two possible suspects, and when you eliminate the obvious one, there's only one. And he's too much of a maniac to be credible.
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Mystery writers need a closed room. Not for writing privacy, but to regulate the flow of suspects in and out of a murder scene.
Odd as it sounds, Wyoming is just a big closed room, a boundless place where nobody comes or goes without being noticed. That quality - plus its peculiarities of landscape, attitude and history - makes it a perfect place for murder. Margaret Coel is the doyenne of contemporary Wyoming mysteries (although a Colorado writer) with her Wind River intrigues, the Agatha Christie of the Big Empty. Author C.J. Box has thrown one more Wyoming mystery on the stack, but with a difference: He knows Wyoming the way a life-long native knows it. His debut, "Open Season," rings true as it gallops over the rugged terrain of environmentalism, small-town politics, outlander greed and exploitation so common to Wyoming. And when Box describes the real landscape of this almost-mythical state, you can rest assured it's dead on.
Box's prose is most trenchant, of course, when he's writing about Wyoming. Landscape is not just the territory of the West's literary prose, but it can be found in the region's category fiction, too, proving just as important to genre tales as mainstream. Box nails the taste and smell of the place, and in the process, creates a sensory experience that can be rare in fast-paced, plot-driven crime fiction - without stalling the plot. He finds a way to weave the mysteries of landscape into the larger mystery at hand.
The book's inclusion of excerpts from the Endangered Species Act probably doesn't warm anybody's cockles, except very perverse enviro-lawyers. But those deadly segments tend to serve as frontispieces for chapters and are not critical to the narrative, so are easily skipped.
It's obvious why "Open Season" has such an easy grasp of the Cowboy State: Box has been a Wyoming ranch hand, fishing guide, survey crewman, small-town newspaper reporter and a high-level tourism executive - all before becoming CEO of a Cheyenne corporation that promotes Rocky Mountain tourism in Europe. When he describes the sound of a bullet slamming into meat, he knows how it sounds. And when he describes a claustrophobic high-country canyon where it's possible to touch both walls, it's because he's been there.
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on August 2, 2001
I live in a smaller town where the bookseller gets to know your tastes and preferences. On a recent Friday when I stuck my head in her door, she stuck this book in my hand and began ringing it up on the cash register.
For the next two days, I was caught up in the world of Joe Pickett, a world where the madness of extremists from both sides of the issue threaten the environment as well as his family.
Box does a grand job setting the scenery and getting you into the landscape where his story plays out. And his protagonist, Joe Pickett, is all-too-human, having the kinds of quirks and foibles we all share.
Pickett is also honest and driven, balancing the needs of his family against an internal personal code. He is a man of his word, and the elements of his integrity are used against him. Yet when he takes up arms against this enemies, his capacity for violence rivals any character in mainstream mystery fiction.
Any story that starts with the sound of a rifle round pounding into flesh has an uphill fight if it is to consistently maintain the reader's attention. Box does it and makes it look easy.
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on July 9, 2002
C. J. Box has a promising new career as a novelist. OPEN SEASON introduces Wyoming Game Warden Joe Pickett, a good family man with a strong moral compass. No matter what obstacles are put on his way he will do whatever it takes to put things right.
As the novel starts the body of Ote Keeley is found on Pickett's backyard. Keeley has been a thorn on Pickett's side for quite some time since he humiliated him while performing his job. The game warden has been made fun of due to this incident and nobody will let him forget it. Beside the body of Keeley there is a broken ice cooler and it seems that Ote wanted to show Joe something before he was shot.
During the course of the investigation several other bodies of people close to Keeley turn up dead. The main suspect is in critical condition at the hospital after a police shoot-out. Pickett is not convinced that they have their man so he decides to perform his own investigation. During his work he will find that his family, his job and his life are all in jeopardy.
Box does a superb job in keeping Joe Pickett real by introducing us to his family. They all love each other and will do anything for each other. They all share the same worries and struggles that plague the mind of this family man. If someone comes after his family, he is not going to show them any mercy. Joe's oldest daughter, Sheridan, has been hiding a secret since the body of Keeley was found and she will be playing an important role in the book's conclusion.
There are no easy answers in this novel. The conclusion of the case will bring a lot of unintended consequences to the small town in Wyoming that will probably linger in his future novels. If you like the novels of P. J. Parrish and Steve Hamilton you will certainly enjoy C. J. Box's debut novel.
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VINE VOICEon October 26, 2002
This is a FABULOUS first book. Typically I only read cozy mysteries -- those with very little sex or violence. This goes over that barrier but does not contain as much sex and violence as a hard core mystery.
It stars Joe Picket who is a game warden in Wyoming, his wife Marybeth who is pregnant with their 3rd child and their 2 girls Sheridan and Lucy. Joe recently replaced Vern Dunnegan as game warden and the locals still can't get used to that fact.
Sheridan tells her dad of her dream of a monster coming into their backyard. Joe discovers that Sheridan wasn't dreaming. Ote Kealey was found dead and bloody on their woodpile out back. Ote had been camping up on Wolf Mountain.
Joe's perplexed as to why Ote would come to his house. To protect his family, Joe has them check into a local motel. Then he sets out with Wade, another game warden, to discover what was going on up on Wolf Mountain.
This thrusts Joe into a race to try to save not only an endangered species, but to figure out a mystery that will threaten his life and his family.
I liked the author's character, Joe Pickett, and his family. I enjoyed the way the author lets you see things from Joe's point of view as well as from Sheridan's. I don't know much about game wardens and it is not a profession I would think would be interesting for a book, but it is in this series. I felt I got to know a little about the profession and the problems and joys of that profession.
I HIGHLY recommend you read this first book.
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on November 6, 2002
On a lazy sunday morning TROUBLE rode into the backyard and died on Joe Pickett's woodpile, changing his life forever.
Open Season, by C.J. Box is the first in the Joe Pickett mystery series. This first novel has won several awards including the Anthony award for best first novel of 2001.
In Open Season, Pickett, a Wyoming Game Warden has the undaughting task of trying to uncover the truth behind the murders of three men at an outfitters camp. Pickett's fellow law enforcement officials have closed to book on these murders, convinced that they have arrested to killer, Pickett believes otherwise. And so as the new guy in town Pickett sets out to find the reason behind the deaths.
One of the things I like best about this novel is the father-daughter relationship that Pickett has with his two little girls. Also, Pickett comes across as a more average guy and not the "super" sleuth of most novels. From the beginning when Pickett unknowningly gives a ticket to the governor of Wyoming for fishing without a license Joe is somebody we can all relate to.
From the first crack of the rifle to the last this book is sure to please!
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on February 3, 2002
From the opening sentence this book captured me and refused to let go. C.J. Box has produced an exciting debut book and introduces us to Joe Pickett and his family.
Joe Pickett is an incorruptible game warden in the wilds of Wyoming who is drawn into a dangerous situation after a man who has been shot stumbles into his backyard before dying from his wounds. The strange thing about the man is that he was carrying a cooler that had obviously contained animals of some kind, but they had escaped when the man had collapsed. Joe begins to investigate, trying to answer a few questions, such as: who shot him; what was in the cooler; why did the man choose his backyard. As he begins to investigate it becomes obvious that someone is working against him, trying to stop him from digging further.
Another strong character is Sheridan, Joe's eight-year-old daughter. Quite often, authors have difficulty writing down to this age, giving them too much maturity making them an unbelievable character. This isn't the case here. Sheridan has an important role to play, yet she is given fears and beliefs that are common to her age group. This combined with believable reactions to stressful situations gives her role immense credibility.
This story contains a bit of everything, a good intriguing puzzle, a beautiful and well-described setting, a strong, yet endearingly flawed lead character and an ecological dilemma. There's just enough of each factor to tie up into a very enjoyable book.
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