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Titles similar to Open Season
Every few years a first novel appears that immediately sets itself apart from the crowd. As readers, we feel that special shock of recognition that announces, “Here is something special.” Taking dead aim with his first sentence (“When a high-powered rifle hits living flesh it makes a distinctive--pow-WHOP--sound that is unmistakable even at tremendous distance”), Wyoming first-novelist Box remains square on target throughout this superb debut. Joe Pickett, game warden of Twelve Sleep County in Wyoming, is just the kind of everyman hero we can’t help but identify with: something of a plodder, even a bit of a bungler (he loses his gun to a poacher in the novel’s opening scene), he is nevertheless the kind of man who responds to a crisis with courage and the ability to act decisively (just the way we like to think we would respond). And Joe faces a major-league crisis in his rookie year as game warden: when three elk hunters are killed under suspicious circumstances (one of them dies in the warden’s backyard, apparently on his way to deliver something), Joe can’t understand why his colleagues seem to want to sweep the case under the rug. When he looks under that rug, however, he finds a many-tentacled scam involving an oil pipeline and an endangered species. Soon Joe’s career is in jeopardy and his family in mortal danger. The plot is constructed with airtight precision, generating remarkable suspense while drawing us completely into a vividly realized world. The Wyoming high country is a palpable presence here; its ruggedness plays a crucial role in the story, and its grandeur is continually set against the venality of most human concerns. The endangered-species theme, often a plot element is crime fiction, is explored with impressive complexity and no shortage of villains on all sides of the issue. And, best of all, the soft-spoken Joe Pickett is a Gary Cooper for our time: flawed, insecure, but a stand-up guy when it counts--the perfect mix of dream and reality. Open Season will please both mystery buffs and mainstream fiction readers; give it with confidence to anyone who likes either Nevada Barr or Ivan Doig.
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