Day 321: The Dark Horse

Cover for The Dark HorseSheriff Walt Longmire goes undercover in this exciting entry to the series. Mary Marsad has been sent to the Absaroka County jail after confessing to shooting her husband, Wade, after he burned down the couple’s barn with Mary’s horses in it. Not only has Mary confessed, she was found with the murder weapon and has gunshot residue on her hands.

Even though the case is out of his jurisdiction, Walt feels that Mary may be innocent and has been asked to look into the case by the sheriff of the other county. Walt goes to the town of Absalom posing as an insurance agent to see if he can figure out what happened. He discovers that Absalom holds many secrets, including motives for other people to want Wade Marsad dead.

This novel takes place during two different time frames, while Walt is undercover and two weeks beforehand, showing the reasons why Walt thinks Mary is innocent and why he doesn’t take his friends with him.

As usual, the recurring characters from this series have their places in the story, and we are always pleased to encounter Walt’s best friend, Henry Standing Bear, and his foul-mouthed deputy Victoria Moretti, among others. Johnson is a capable writer who creates convincing characters and vividly evokes the rugged landscape of Wyoming.

Day 298: Another Man’s Moccasins

Cover for Another Man's MoccasinsThis Walt Longmire mystery interleaves the present-time story with flashbacks to Longmire’s experiences during the Vietnam War. I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy this development, but the novel turned out to be very good, as the two stories are linked.

Walt is helping his daughter Cady recover from her experiences in Philadelphia (detailed in the previous book) when he is called out to the body of a young woman found along a county highway. Walt immediately recognizes the woman as Vietnamese. Next to the body is a huge Crow Indian, who runs away from Walt. In chasing him down, Walt discovers that he has been living in a culvert. When Walt takes him into custody, he won’t speak.

The discovery of the Vietnamese girl triggers memories of Walt’s first homicide investigation as a marine in Vietnam. The girl’s identification shows she is named Ho Thi Paquet, but in among her possessions, Walt find the picture of another woman who resembles someone he knew in Vietnam. With the help of his friend Henry Standing Bear, Walt finds out that the girl is connected with a large human trafficking ring in Los Angeles.

Walt decides that the Crow, identified as a mentally ill Vietnam vet named Virgil White Buffalo, probably didn’t kill Ho. He also doesn’t think it is a coincidence that a Vietnamese “tourist” has appeared, staying in a motel in Absaroka County.

As I have said before, I really enjoy this series. I enjoy the sense that the landscape of Wyoming is as much of a character as the people in the novels, and I like the recurring characters, who keep developing new dimensions.

Day 246: Kindness Goes Unpunished

Cover for Kindness Goes UnpunishedHere it is, the first review of my second year of blogging. I just had to say that. Now, on to the review.

As much as I enjoy Craig Johnson’s series about Wyoming sheriff Walt Longmire, I find that I’ve been neglecting him and so am way behind in reviewing the series. One thing I admire most about this series is the sense of place–how Wyoming is depicted so clearly it is almost a character. Unfortunately, Kindness Goes Unpunished takes place in Philadelphia, so we miss that here, but the book is still action packed and lots of fun to read.

Sheriff Longmire and his best friend Henry Standing Bear travel to Philadelphia. Henry is setting up a collection of photos at a museum in preparation for giving a lecture, and Walt is visiting his daughter Cady, who works there as a lawyer.

Before Walt even gets a chance to see Cady, she is found at the bottom of some steps in a coma. Witness testimony seems to indicate that she was pushed down the stairs by her boyfriend, who turns out to have a drug habit. Shortly thereafter, however, the boyfriend is shoved off a bridge.

Philly cops wonder if Walt is responsible for the boyfriend’s death. Walt is torn between worry about Cady and his impulse to track down the killer, so Walt’s lippy deputy, Victoria Moretti, gets on a plane from Wyoming. It helps that she is a Philadelphia native and has relatives in the police force. Walt makes a deal with the Philly police to assist them in their investigation. (No, Brits, that doesn’t mean the same thing here as it does in the U.K.) We readers also get to meet the entire Moretti clan, including Victoria’s mother, who seems inclined to flirt with Walt.

Although I missed the Wyoming setting, Johnson effectively employs the fish-out-of-water technique to produce a novel that is as good as ever.

Day 229: Death Without Company

Cover for Death Without CompanyLucius Connally, the ex-sheriff of Absaroka County and Walt Longmire’s old boss, asks Walt to look into the death of an old Basque woman named Mari in an assisted-living home. Before he even finds out she was poisoned, Walt discovers she used to be Lucius’s wife. Her brute of a second husband, who left the family in the 50’s, does not respond to phone calls.

In investigating the crime, Walt is brought into the life of the Basque sheepherders. He finds himself chasing a mysterious large man and rescues the old woman’s granddaughter after she is attacked in her own bakery.

With a backdrop of the stunning Wyoming vistas and the usual recurring characters, the Longmire series continues to be entertaining.

Day Two: The Cold Dish

Cover for The Cold DishMy intention is to review a book a day. Of course, I don’t read a book a day, but I have a book journal, so I am cribbing my reviews from that.

Today’s book is a great mystery set in present-day Wyoming, The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson. I have been loving this series, which is full of interesting characters. The setting is almost a character in itself.

The main character is Walt Longmire, the sheriff of a rural Wyoming county, who is a widower nearing retirement. (I understand that A&E will be broadcasting a series based on these books, called Longmire, sometime this year, something to look forward to.) I often tire of series mysteries, principally because of the secondary characters, who are often one-dimensional. Johnson’s characters seem more like the actual inhabitants of a smallish western town.

In The Cold Dish, Cody Pritchard is shot to death at long range by someone using an unusual rifle. Two years before, he and some other high school boys participated in a brutal rape of a young Cheyenne girl, and he and his co-defendents got off lightly. Despite his abhorrence of their crime, Walt is worried that the other boys may be at risk, so he must try to keep them safe. He is also worried about what his best friend, Henry Standing Bear, might know, since Henry is the girl’s uncle.

The book features a good mystery, some exciting action, characters that you really care about, and perhaps even the ghosts of long-dead Cheyenne warriors (although Walt doesn’t think so).