“Open Season” by C. J. Box
Rating: 5 Water Towers
Every now and then I read a book that I simply cannot put down. Open Season is one of those books. This is the debut novel (published in 2001) by C. J. Box and the first time I have read a C. J. Box novel. I can guarantee you….I will read more! This is one terrific book.
Joe Pickett has a pretty good life as a Game Warden in Saddlestring, Wyoming (replacing recently retired Vern Dunnegan). He has a beautiful wife, Marybeth, and two wonderful daughters, Sheridan (7) and Lucy (3), a Labrador Retriever, Maxine, and his horse Lizzie. The family lives in a State owned house that is small and, since Marybeth is pregnant, about to get smaller. His pay sucks, but, he is doing what he always wanted to do, and the family is happy and healthy.
That is about to change.
As the book opens, Joe confronts Ote Keeley who has just shot a buck out of season for, apparently, the antlers. As Joe is writing Ote a ticket, Ote grabs Joe’s gun and threatens to kill him. Joe and Ote come to an agreement that is mutually beneficial to both, that is, Joe lives and Ote keeps his outfitters license.
Fast forward a few months and Sheridan “dreams” that she saw a monster outside the house. Joe goes out to make sure everything is safe, but, as he looks around he sees a very dead Ote Keeley near the woodpile (Why did Ote come all the way to Joe’s house to die?). In Ote’s possession is an empty cooler with a few pieces of scat (poop) in it. Joe grabs the poop to send it off to Cheyenne for analysis. Luckily, he keeps some poop in an envelope in his desk as well. When the dust clears, Sheridan sees some animals in the woodpile that she and Lucy promptly name and adopt as “pets”.
The investigation into Ote’s death takes Joe and his Game Warden friend, Wacey Hedeman, and Deputy McLanahan into an area where only horses can reach. There they find three more dead bodies (friends of Ote) and a lone live person, Clyde Lidgard, who pointed his weapon at Wacey and Deputy McLanahan and was promptly shot by both. Seriously wounded a life flight helicopter (hmmm, another way to get into this area is by helicopter) takes Clyde to a hospital in Billings, MT.
Over time, Joe hears rumors about an extinct species of weasels, the Miller’s Weasel, that people have seen in the area where the murders took place. To add fuel to this rumor, the scat that Joe sent to Cheyenne was never received (except it was and an anonymous phone caller stated that to Joe), and he is being railroaded into suspension by the bureaucracy in Cheyenne.
Someone wants Joe to stop the investigation and will stop at nothing to stop Joe…even if it means killing him and his family. Does Joe stop the investigation? No.
This is an outstanding book. It shows, horrifyingly, both sides of the endangered species act and how, if an endangered species is located the government can shut down everything in the area thus destroying people’s lives. And how those people, when they find an endangered species, can make sure that species becomes extinct in a hurry.
Pick up “Open Season”, you will not be disappointed.
Here is a Wikipedia entry on the Endangered Species Act.