Open season is more like it, since the casualties are only beginning when a bunch of masked thugs knock on old Lucien Larocque's door only to beat him to unconsciousness and his part-Indian wife Belle to death. It isn't just the high-profile felonies that continue to make headlines (or would if Branbury, Vermont, had its own daily), as Lucien's neighbor Ruth Willmarth and her swain Colm Hanna, mortuary scion and realtor, see when they look more closely into Belle's death and the theft of Lucien's pitiful cash hoard--though there'll be another murder, a kidnapping, and a rash of barn burnings before the final tableau. It's the sense that every crime is expressing low-level, deeprooted conflicts that rage all over the hardscrabble landscape. Ruth rages against Pete, the husband who abandoned her for his shot at the silver screen; Pete's crazy sister Bertha rages against Ruth; the incoming city boys in school hate the farm boys; and the farm boys, in Wright's final savage version of the Great Chain of Being, hate each other and themselves. It's no wonder, then, that when the time comes for the obligatory melodramatics and histrionics, first-novelist Wright handles then with a matter-of-fact delicacy and subtlety that make you think of them in the context of her characters' lives, not the context of all the other mysteries you've read. Regional fans should keep an eye out for this one.