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Open Season (A Joe Pickett Novel) Hardcover – July 9, 2001

4.3 out of 5 stars 787 customer reviews
Book 1 of 16 in the Joe Pickett Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Penzler Pick, July 2001: Mystery debuts are both exciting and problematic. Exciting, because one may always be about to discover the next Hammett or Chandler (or so the copywriters and publicists would have us believe), and problematic because originality in such a well-grooved genre is becoming more and more at a premium.

In advance reviews, Open Season has been pronounced "something special," (Booklist), and it lives up to the billing. It is not C.J. Box's skill at plotting (the story of greedy business interests and local corruption is fine, but familiar), but rather the character of hero Joe Pickett, a Wyoming game warden, that makes this a series kickoff to remember. Like all the best mystery protagonists, Pickett is stubbornly ready to risk everything when his own personal sense of morality is at stake. But Joe is also a guy who sometimes gets things wrong, and this characteristic of messing up adds a dimension of humanity to the book.

C.J. Box makes the town of Twelve Sleep, Wyoming (where Joe and his pregnant wife and his daughters have come to live in a tiny house that could be a lot nicer if Joe only had a job that paid better), come alive to the extent that one can almost smell the crisp mountain air and pine needles. The locals display an impressive array of grudge holding and "don't mess with us" attitudes, but Joe is unwilling to forget he's sworn to uphold and enforce a full battery of laws that many of these neighbors have no intention of obeying.

When a well-known poacher, with whom he has humiliatingly tangled, suddenly turns up dead in his own backyard, Joe finds himself at the top of a downward path that, first, will lead to more bodies and then will put his entire family into peril. Open Season doesn't pull its punches, and Box does allow bad things to happen to good people. Read it and find out how skillfully he handles both his hero's complexities and also the ambiguities inherent in a life dedicated to law enforcement. --Otto Penzler

From Publishers Weekly

Enthusiastic blurbs even from luminaries such as Tony Hillerman, Les Standiford and Loren Estleman can sometimes leave readers feeling as if they must have read a different book altogether. Not this time. Box's superb debut, the first in a series introducing Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett, should immediately make him a contender for best first novel or even best novel awards. Young Joe is struggling to fill the shoes of his mentor, legendary Vern Dunnegan, as warden of Twelve Sleep County, and trying to support his wife and growing family on the meager salary he makes. The hours are long, the work hard but satisfying, and Joe's honesty and integrity would pay off if he could avoid "bonehead moves" like ticketing the governor of the state for fishing without a license, for instance, or allowing a poacher to grab Joe's firearm from him. When that very same poacher turns up dead and bloodied in Joe's woodpile with only a cooler containing unidentified animal scat, his life, livelihood and family will never be the same. Upping the excitement are a couple of murders, local political and bureaucratic intrigue, a high-stakes pipeline scheme and an endangered species that Joe's eldest daughter "discovers." No one has done a better job of portraying the odd combination of hardy and foolhardy folk that make their homes in Wyoming's wilderness areas, or of describing the dichotomy between those who want to develop the area and those who want to preserve it. Without resorting to simplistic blacks and whites, Box fuses ecological themes, vibrant descriptions of Wyoming's wonders and peculiarities, and fully fleshed characters into a debut of riveting tensions. Meet Joe Pickett: he's going to be a mystery star.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Series: A Joe Pickett Novel (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult; 1st edition (July 9, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399147489
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399147487
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (787 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #310,956 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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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By A Customer on July 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Mass Market Paperback
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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