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Open Season: A Joe Pickett Novel    by C. J. Box order for
Open Season
by C. J. Box
Order:  USA  Can
Penguin, 2016 (2001)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Having missed all the early episodes in C. J. Box's impressive series starring Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett, I was happy to have the opportunity to read the introductory novel, Open Season, which was very much before its time in the environmental issues that it addresses.

In it we meet a young rookie, Joe, who was given the position as warden of Twelve Sleep County due to the influence of his mentor, legendary Vern Dunnegan, and now works under his long shadow. Unfortunately Joe is best known in the area for two early mistakes - arresting the governor for fishing without a license, and having his weapon taken from him by poacher Ote Keeley. Joe is married to Marybeth. They have two young daughters, seven-year-old Sheridan and three-year-old Lucy, and Marybeth is pregnant again. They live in a house provided by the state, making do on Joe's meager salary.

As the novel opens, Sheridan sees a bloody monster outside their home. Not a monster at all, it turns out to be Ote Keeley, who dies on their woodpile. But real monsters will threaten young Sheridan soon enough, and that same woodpile will shelter other smaller critters (spotted only by the two little girls). Keeley had been hunting in the mountains with two other guides. Joe works with the local sheriff and another Wyoming game warden, his friend Wacey Hedeman, to find out what happened to him, and why he struggled to reach Joe.

While all this transpires, Joe's home life goes downhill fast with a visit from his upwardly mobile (through a series of marriages) mother-in-law Missy, who is not impressed by Joe's lack of wealth. Soon, his job is at risk and Vern fills him in on an opportunity to work for a corporation racing to put a pipeline through the mountains. What should Joe do? Well, you can guess, and it puts everything - and everyone - he cares about at risk ... with monsters lurking. This fantastic start to an excellent series is still very, very relevant.

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