Open Season by C J Box — New Review

Cover: penguinrandomhouse.com

As well as recording what I read, this blog challenges me to read ‘a little bit of everything’, and I still have a checklist of genres I have yet to review. Some of those — including ‘western’ — are genres that I’ve never read. So, I thought I’d ease my way in with a book that combines the unfamiliar with something I know well: a detective story. Open Season is a western/crime novel, and it’s won a bunch of awards, so I was excited to get going!

Open Season certainly delivered on being both a western and a crime novel. Within about a page, Joe Pickett had adjusted his cowboy hat, shaken the dust off his denim Wranglers and unholstered his Smith & Wesson.

There was plenty of drama, too! Not only in the opening chapter, which was action-packed, but throughout the novel. The ‘black hat’ is genuinely frightening — one of the more aggressive murderers I can remember encountering.

Joe concluded that he knew no more about Clyde Lidgard than when he entered the trailer, but because of the penis photos, he now knew more about Clyde Lidgard than he cared to.

Open Season, C J Box

I have to admit, at this point, that I don’t often read detective stories. I’m much more used to listening to them in an audio format, and maybe I notice issues with the writing style less in that medium. I definitely found some of the sentences in Open Season to be almost unbearably clunky. As an editor, I wanted to take my red pen to places where a lack of contractions made dialogue sound unnatural, or paragraphs where the same word was repeated over and over.

To the west, snaking along a four-wheel-drive road, was a single white vehicle. The occupants of the vehicle were below the rim of the plateau where they could not be seen by the herd. From the movements of the antelope, Joe could tell they had not yet noticed the white vehicle.

Open Season, C J Box

Of course, just because I didn’t get on with the writing doesn’t mean that it’s wrong. And, realistically, the prose isn’t the most important part of Open Season. The thrilling climax, which contrasts Joe’s narrative with that of his daughter is far more likely to leave an impression.

I don’t think I’ll write off C J Box completely. I might try another of his novels in book form, and if that doesn’t work, then I’ll give it a whirl on audiobook.

Rating: 2 out of 5.