It’s spring in Saddlestring, Wyoming and local ranch owner and matriarch Opal Scarlett has vanished under suspicious circumstances. Two of her sons are battling for control of their mother’s multi-million-dollar empire, and their fight threatens to tear the town apart.
Everyone is so caught up in the brothers’ battle that they seem to have forgotten that Opal is still missing. Game Warden Joe Pickett is convinced that one of the brothers murdered their mother.
As Joe tries to uncover the truth, he is beaten nearly to death by the new right-hand man on the Scarlett’s ranch – a recently arrived stranger who looks eerily familiar.
A series of threatening messages and attempts to sabotage Joe’s career follow. At first, he thinks the attacks are connected with his investigation of Opal’s disappearance, but he learns that someone with a very personal grudge is after him.
A reviewer I follow recently used the term series fatigue to describe that feeling you get when you have no appetite to read the next book in a series that you’ve read all the previous books in. The phrase resonated with me and I decided that I’d do myself a favour if I learned to recognise the signs of series fatigue early and either refresh my enthusiasm for a series or set it aside. Either option is better than the lingering sense of an unfulfilled obligation that having the next book from a once-favourite series languishing in my TBR pile brings.
I’ve had In Plain Sight, the sixth Joe Pickett book, in my TBR pile for twenty months now without feeling the urge to bring it to the top, so I thought it would be an ideal candidate to field test the series fatigue idea.
I made it a quarter of the way through the book and realised that, while there was nothing wrong with it, there wasn’t enough right about it to keep me reading. I’ve diagnosed series fatigue and set the book aside.
To understand the nature of the series fatigue, I’ve gone back over my experience of reading the Joe Pickett books. I came late to this series, which started in 2001, so I tried to catch up by reading the first five books between March 2018 and March 2019. I gave the first four books three stars each but gave the fifth book only two stars.
The first book, Open Season struck me as a quietly entertaining novel with a strong male lead.
Savage Run was a fun if low-key drama that opened with a high-profile eco-warrior falling prey to assassination by exploding cow. For me, the book was carried by my continuing interest in the too-honest-for-his-own-good man-of-few-words, devoted husband and father, Wyoming gamekeeper, Joe Pickett.
Things got better with Winter Kill which was an intelligent, slightly off-centre, very well-written thriller. It was a violent, rage-filled story that tested all of Joe Pickett’s weaknesses as he struggled to do the right thing.
Trophy Hunt surprised me by going all Mulder and Scully on me with crop circles and animal mutilations. Joe remained the rock around which this river of chaos flowed. Watching him examine and discredit an alleged crop circle was a delight. Sometimes I felt like I wanted him to be a little less static but then I recognised he’d stop being Joe.
Out Of Range left me out of patience. The plot was clever enough but I found myself not liking Joe. In the previous books, I’d seen Joe with his family. That rounded him out, even when it put his family in danger. This time he was alone, away from home and partially estranged from his wife. When I took a good look at him, I saw someone I didn’t much like. Apart from a stubborn refusal to let go of a problem even when it brings him into conflict with authority, I barely recognized Joe. Then there was the shadow of adultery. You’d think that in a book filled with killings, a little adultery wouldn’t take centre stage but it did, mainly because Joe was corrosively dishonest about what he wants.
Coming to the sixth book, In Plain Sight, after a gap of a few years, I found myself looking at Joe and wondering if he was worth my time. The dogged persistence and inability to deal with hierarchies that had initially made him interesting have now started to irritate me. It seems that he learns nothing from book to book. The plot around the missing matriarch shows promise but Joe himself adds nothing but a kind of plodding collection of information. The plot involving the personal grudge against Joe is well-written with a credible and interesting baddy at its centre but I can see that it’s going to take Joe forever to figure out what’s going on and then he’ll try to solve the problem by himself and in the meantime, his family will be at risk and if I’m right about those things, I’m going to want to slap the man.
So, it’s time for me and Joe to part.
The good news is that, from next month, there’ll be a new Game Warden on my shelves. Her name is Jodi Lune, she’s just started as a Game Warden in New Mexico and she’s as different from Joe Pickett as anyone can be. I’m looking forward to meeting her in Hollow Beasts by Alisa Lynn Valdes.
After a long stint in academia, Jodi Luna leaves Boston for the wilds of New Mexico to start a new life as a game warden. Jodi is no stranger to the wilderness; her family has lived here for generations. Determined to protect her homeland, she nabs a poacher in her first week on the job.
But when he retaliates by stalking Jodi and her teenage daughter, a cat and mouse game leads Jodi to a white supremacist group deep in the mountains. She learns that new recruits are kidnapping women of color to prove their mettle to the organization’s leader.
When the local sheriff refuses to assist, Jodi joins up with young deputy Ashley Romero. Together, they set out to take down a terrorist network that will test not just their skills as investigators but also their knowledge of the land and commitment to its people.
But will Jodi’s fierce resolve to protect the voiceless put her loved ones in harm’s way?
3 thoughts on “‘Series Fatigue’ and why ‘In Plain Sight’ – Joe Pickett #6 by C. J. Box was my last trip to Twelve Sleep Wyoming.”
I tend to find I lose enthusiasm for series somewhere between 6 and 10 books in. I’m not sure if it’s a “me” thing or if the authors I’m following have run out of steam themselves. Terry Pratchett was an exception for fantasy, and Agatha Christie and Ellis Peters for mystery.
My experience is similar except when the author has done something radical to the structure of the series. I loved the Kate Shugak series by Dana Stabenow. Book 10 of that series had major events in it that changed everything in Kate Shugak’s life.
I can’t disagree with anything you’ve said here–more than once I wonder why I’ve stuck with this series. I’m starting #15 soon, and I’m not sure that Joe’s learned much since #6. The rest of the characters seem to have, however. (thankfully)
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