Open Season by C.J. Box
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
When a man dies in his front yard carrying a cooler, Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett finds himself thrust into a mystery, a mystery that might cost him everything he holds dear...
Over the past ten years, I've read hundreds of mysteries and thrillers. There's a stripped down charm to some of them and many of them boil down to the oldest of tales: people being shitheads to each other. When this one popped up on the cheap, I decided to give it a shot. "Wyoming game warden" isn't something that comes to mind when I think of a sleuth.
Open Season starts out by establishing that Joe Pickett is a good man but not precisely on the ball. A guy gets his gun from him and he never lives it down. Joe's a family man, with two daughters and a bun in the oven. His wife is clearly the brains of the operation. When the very man that snatched his gun away from him winds up dead on their wood pile, Joe finds himself neck deep in something sinister.
The rural Wyoming setting was the star of the show for me. Being a hundred miles from nowhere is scary on its own, not to mention throwing in the wildlife and the fact that everyone is packing heat. Box did a great job capturing what life in a dying small town is like. I liked that Joe was a by the book game warden rather than some kind of smart mouth maverick like so many other sleuths.
The setup for the mystery was good but I felt like everything after that was telegraphed. When there are only three prominent characters besides the sleuth and his family, it's pretty obvious that one or more of them is involved in the shady business. I felt like I spent a lot of time waiting for Joe Pickett to catch up.
As much as I've complained, I did enjoy the book and the ending was cathartic enough to be worth it. Box resisted the temptation to make Pickett rush in with guns blazing like an action hero and kept things true to character.
While it wasn't the best mystery I read this year, Open Season was an engaging enough read and I'm open to reading the further adventures of Joe Pickett. Three out of five stars.
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