The Cold Dish (Audiobook) by Craig Johnson, George Guidall

The Cold DishThe Cold Dish

by Craig Johnson, George Guidall
Series: Walt Longmire, #1
Unabridged Audiobook, 13 hrs. and 18 mins
Recorded Books, 2007

Read: June 7- 12, 2017


This is by and large what I had to say about the book a couple of years ago — but I’ve expanded it a touch.

It’s hard to believe this is a first novel. I love it when that happens. Johnson is assured in his writing, he knows his characters and their world, there’s no mistaking that. The world and the characters are very well-developed, it’s hard to believe that Johnson worked in as much backstory as he did for these characters in such a short space. Walt, Vic, Henry Standing Bear, Lucien — they’re all fully fleshed out and ready to go.

As always, the mixture of Cheyenne Mysticism (for lack of a better word) and Longmire’s realism (and Vic’s cynicism) is great — even at this point, Johnson’s ready to present things that could be Cheyenne ghosts, or it could be Longmire’s mind playing tricks on him as a result of injury and exposure without taking a clear narrative stance. It’s not a fast-paced tale by any means–Johnson saunters through his prose like Longmire would through the world. That doesn’t mean it’s not gripping, though. It’s lush with detail, as scenic and expansive as the Wyoming country it takes place in.

It took awhile for Guidall’s narration to work for me, I did eventually come around, and I expect I’ll enjoy him more fully in the next book.

I figured out whodunit pretty quickly, but it took a while to get the why. The journey to the why was compelling, interesting and well worth the time. Looking forward to the next installment.

—–

4 Stars

Pub Day Repost: An Obvious Fact by Craig Johnson

An Obvious FactAn Obvious Fact

by Craig Johnson
Series: Walt Longmire, #12

eARC, 320 pg.
Viking, 2016

Read: July 29 – 30, 2016

4 Stars

Craig Johnson is so consistent with these books that he makes it really hard to write about them. I’ve struggled with this one for weeks — how can I say something I haven’t before? I’m not sure I can, but I guess I can start with what makes this one different from the rest.

For starters, Henry’s borrowed Walt’s set of Sherlock Holmes (without his knowledge or consent, but who cares) and spends the novel quoting Holmes at inopportune times to his buddy. I laughed every time. Walt didn’t find it that amusing — and paid him back by talking about what a silly and reckless endeavor riding motorcycles is — much less racing/jumping/etc. He had plenty of opportunity to make these kind of remarks as the two of them were in Hulett, WY for the world’s largest motorcycle rally, where Henry is attempting to recapture a victory of his younger days.

Walt’s been brought in to help with the investigation of a motorcycle crash, the small local police force is stretched beyond itself due to the rally and really can’t take it on. It seems pretty cut and dry on the surface — just a bad break and a bit of careless driving. But every time Walt looks at another piece of evidence, he finds more reasons to doubt the obvious facts.

We learn a lot about Henry in this book — but he’s not really in it all that much (at least less than he’s been in others, lately). And while he’s not really at odds with Walt, you really can’t say that he’s on his old friend’s side throughout (nor is he really acting all that rationally).

Vic comes back to Wyoming, and injects her flair into the investigation and Walt’s life. She also continues to be the embodiment of many men’s dreams between her looks, brains, language, driving and shooting. I’m not going to say if she’s my Platonic ideal, I will say that for a totally unrealistic character, she’s a whole lotta fun.

The Whodunit was pretty easy, the Whydunit was trickier (and the Accessories to the Who were more difficult, but not hard). But, hey, we don’t read these books for the puzzle — we do it to watch Walt figure things out and to spend time with our friends from the Equality State (and the nations within it). In the end, this is just what you expect out of a Walt Longmire novel — some laughs, a nice little puzzle, a little fisticuffs, maybe a little gunplay (not necessarily a shoot-out). Well-paced, well-told, all in a day’s work for Johnson.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Viking via First to Read in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

—–

4 Stars

An Obvious Fact by Craig Johnson

An Obvious FactAn Obvious Fact

by Craig Johnson
Series: Walt Longmire, #12

eARC, 320 pg.
Viking, 2016

Read: July 29 – 30, 2016

4 Stars

Craig Johnson is so consistent with these books that he makes it really hard to write about them. I’ve struggled with this one for weeks — how can I say something I haven’t before? I’m not sure I can, but I guess I can start with what makes this one different from the rest.

For starters, Henry’s borrowed Walt’s set of Sherlock Holmes (without his knowledge or consent, but who cares) and spends the novel quoting Holmes at inopportune times to his buddy. I laughed every time. Walt didn’t find it that amusing — and paid him back by talking about what a silly and reckless endeavor riding motorcycles is — much less racing/jumping/etc. He had plenty of opportunity to make these kind of remarks as the two of them were in Hulett, WY for the world’s largest motorcycle rally, where Henry is attempting to recapture a victory of his younger days.

Walt’s been brought in to help with the investigation of a motorcycle crash, the small local police force is stretched beyond itself due to the rally and really can’t take it on. It seems pretty cut and dry on the surface — just a bad break and a bit of careless driving. But every time Walt looks at another piece of evidence, he finds more reasons to doubt the obvious facts.

We learn a lot about Henry in this book — but he’s not really in it all that much (at least less than he’s been in others, lately). And while he’s not really at odds with Walt, you really can’t say that he’s on his old friend’s side throughout (nor is he really acting all that rationally).

Vic comes back to Wyoming, and injects her flair into the investigation and Walt’s life. She also continues to be the embodiment of many men’s dreams between her looks, brains, language, driving and shooting. I’m not going to say if she’s my Platonic ideal, I will say that for a totally unrealistic character, she’s a whole lotta fun.

The Whodunit was pretty easy, the Whydunit was trickier (and the Accessories to the Who were more difficult, but not hard). But, hey, we don’t read these books for the puzzle — we do it to watch Walt figure things out and to spend time with our friends from the Equality State (and the nations within it). In the end, this is just what you expect out of a Walt Longmire novel — some laughs, a nice little puzzle, a little fisticuffs, maybe a little gunplay (not necessarily a shoot-out). Well-paced, well-told, all in a day’s work for Johnson.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Viking via First to Read in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

—–

4 Stars

The Highwayman by Craig Johnson

The Highwayman The Highwayman

by Craig Johnson
Series: Walt Longmire, #11.5

Hardcover, 190 pg.
Viking, 2016

Read: June 7 -8, 2016

We’re taught to work independently, but nothing strikes you quite like a 10-78 [Officer Needs Assistance], the urgency to reach a fellow officer in need. It’s instinctual to individuals who are trained to respond and risk their lives for each other and complete strangers.”

Having been in Wyoming Law Enforcement for so long, he knows pretty much every officer in the state. One such person is Rosey Wayman, a Highway patrolman who’s having some problems. She’s taken a new assignment, a jurisdiction once patrolled by a (literally) legendary officer. Since then, well, strange things have been happening. Walt and Henry (as a favor to her and her C.O.) have dropped by to act as sort of independent witnesses — basically to determine if her imagination is getting the best of her, or if there are strange things underfoot.

One of the best parts of this series is the way that Johnson writes about things that can’t be readily and easily explained (generally) without spelling things out for the reader. Yes, a character may be having a psychological problem, a physical problem, or there might be a spiritual dimension to what they experience — maybe all of the above — but what Johnson won’t do is tell you what happened. Henry, Walt, Ruby, Lucian or any number of others just might express their thoughts/opinions/beliefs, but the author won’t.

Which means that when Johnson tells a ghost story? You’re in for a good one. One where you have no idea if the ghost in question is a manifestation of someone’s (or multiple someones’) subconscious.

I will admit I was confused when I saw this was advertised as a novella. The last Longmire novel, Dry Bones was 306 pages long, and this was listed at 200 (190 is my count). How did that qualify as a novella (which is a fairly slippery term, anyway)? And then I picked up a copy. This one measured at 5.3″ x 7.4″ (Dry Bones was 6.2″ x 9.2″). Which explained everything. Reading it made it clear that it wasn’t a novel — one story, no personal drama, no ongoing story/character arcs — just Walt, Henry and Rosey on a ghost hunt.

Lean prose, great characters, a setting that means more than just the place where the action takes place (and is described thusly) — everything you want in a Longmire story.

One other thing that I have to mention — the elderly Arapaho sha-woman that Henry introduces Walt to is a real hoot. Her teasing/harassment of Walt was a needed dash of fun in this book, I can only hope that Johnson finds an excuse to use her again.

If this was a novel, it’d be 3-3 ½ stars, but since it’s supposed to be a novella, I’ll give it a 4. Just what the doctor ordered to tide you over until the next full book.

—–

4 Stars

Dry Bones by Craig Johnson

Dry BonesDry Bones

by Craig Johnson
Series: Walt Longmire, #11
Hardcover, 306 pg.
Viking, 2015

Read: December 5, 2015
So, possibly the largest Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever discovered is found in Wyoming (which is apparently a pretty good place to find them, who knew?), and there’s a battle brewing over who it (and the very large price tag that’ll surely be attached to it) belongs to. There’s enough drama there, but you don’t pick up a Walt Longmire novel for paleontological wrangling, you need a dead body or two. Thankfully, one shows up not too far away, and Walt’s old friend, Omar finds it.

Johnson’s pretty good at keeping several plates spinning, but this time he seems to have outdone himself — we’ve got a controversy over who gets custody over the T. Rex, with three different parties; a runaway; dealing with FBI and a Deputy U. S. Attorney looking to make a name for himself; Double Tough’s recovery from A Serpent’s Tooth; Vic’s continuing recovery from the same book; a visit from Cady and her daughter; oh, yeah, and the murder. About halfway through I actually stopped and wrote them all down, and asked myself “how’s he pulling this off?” I’m honestly not sure, but he did.

Which does mean he pulled it off flawlessly. It didn’t take too long to figure out where the Deputy Attorney story was going — aside from the running source of comedy. But honestly, I think we needed a couple more scenes to make it worthwhile. We got to see Lolo again — which was nice, but she didn’t get enough to do. Still, just glad to see she’s still in this world. I do think the skeleton controversy vanished a bit (understandably) in the middle, when I think it could’ve kept going.

But overall, this was a fun, quick ride, with Johnson (and Longmire) firing on all cylinders, and I can’t wait for the next one to see how the events of this book impact our friends going forward.

Oh no! I’m all caught up (other than the short story collection) with the Longmire books — whatever shall I do? Actually that’s a really good question, I’m going to miss my monthly visits to Absaroka County.

—–

4 Stars

Any Other Name by Craig Johnson

Any Other NameAny Other Name

by Craig Johnson
Series: Walt Longmire, #10

Hardcover, 317 pg.

Viking, 2014

Read: November 14 – 16, 2015

“I want to warn you that if you put Walter on this you’re going to find out what it’s all about, one way or the other.” Another pause, and I could imagine the face that was peering down at her, a visage to which I was accustomed. “You’re sure you want that? Because he’s like a gun; once you point him and pull the trigger, it’s too late to change your mind.”

There’s the problem, isn’t it? Walt won’t stop for anything once he starts. A perennial conflict in the Longmire series is Walt’s devotion to his friends/Cady and his duty as a sheriff (often more felt than real), part of its recurrence is because it always works as a plot device (as tired as it may feel — which is part of the whole thing, it’s just as tired for Cady as it is for the reader). Part of that is because I expect that it’s a strong reflection of reality (unlike, say the beating that Walt takes in this one and then the near super-human feats he accomplishes shortly thereafter).

Detective Gerald Holman shot himself — and did so in a fairly unusual manner. That aside, it’s a pretty cut-and-dried suicide. But his widow doesn’t buy it. Which isn’t that unusual, but because she doesn’t buy it, their old friend Lucian Connally doesn’t buy it — he’s just not that kind of guy. So Lucian drags Walt to the next county and gets him to investigate it — the sheriff there doesn’t see the need, but isn’t going to stop him. Lucian gives the widow the warning up above, and she agrees to it, as does Walt — even with the birth of his grandchild just days away in Philadelphia.

Along the way, Vic and Henry show up — as does a very unlikely friend of Walt’s from a couple of books back. Vic’s recovered physically from A Serpent’s Tooth, but the rest of her has a bit to go. Henry’s just Henry — and I’m pretty sure that’s all he’ll ever be. Walt befriends/drafts a local police officer, who also comes through for him in a pretty big way. Actually, meeting Officer Corbin Dougherty was one of my favorite parts of the book:

… he looked vaguely familiar….

“You date my daughter?”

“I did.” He blushed up to his blond crew cut. “The first time I came to pick her up you tossed me a shotgun shell.”

“I did?”

“Yeah, you said they went a lot faster after eleven o’clock.”

I nodded. “I used to think I was a tough guy.”

I liked this exchange for a few reasons: 1. It’s amusing, 2. It reminds me of one of the best exchanges between Raylan Givens and Wynn Duffy on Justified, 3. It illustrates the difference between Walt and Raylan. I don’t know if Raylan will ever get to the point where he could say that last line and mean it, but you know Walt did (and is probably embarrassed that he ever said it in the first place — Raylan may have rued uttering that to Wynn because of the fallout, but he sure wasn’t embarrassed).

The kinds of criminal activity that Walt turns up during his investigation of the suicide and Holman’s last cases that probably led him to it makes a guy miss Absaroka County and its apocalyptic cults, generations-long feuds, drug smuggling, serial killers and whatnot. But throughout it all, you know that Walt and his posse will bring justice to those who drove Holman over the edge.

To be honest, the ending of this one felt rushed — Walt had a hard deadline to meet, and so he had to rush things a bit on his end — and it felt like Johnson did, too. There was no cheating on the final reveal of his investigation — Johnson’s too careful for that, and he’s not one for red herrings, so you know the detail that leads Walt to the conclusion was important when you saw it the second time. But, I didn’t think it was well explained, the clues fit, but I didn’t see the motive working — at least not as given. It didn’t ruin the experience for me, but it took a little shine off of it.

—–

3 Stars

A Serpent’s Tooth by Craig Johnson

A Serpent's ToothA Serpent’s Tooth

by Craig Johnson
Series: Walt Longmire, #9

Paperback, 335 pg.
Penguin Books, 2014
Read: October 17 – 19, 2015

So it seems that Craig Johnson had some things about religion that he wanted to get off of his chest. It almost felt like that came first, and the story came second — maybe not, maybe he just took the opportunity that the story gave him, what do I know? Raised by a Methodist mother and an atheistic/agnostic/irreligious father, Walt and Martha repeated that pattern once he came home and married (although it appears Walt attended services fairly frequently with her), after her death, he’s left the Church behind. As he told Henry, he’s spent more time in Indian religious ceremonies than Christian since Martha.

So, he’s in a jaded state of mind when he encounters a LDS splinter group — add in Vic’s lapsed Catholicism, and the Absaroka County Sheriff’s Department spends a lot of time almost offending a few World Religions. It helps (both the insulting, and insulating Walt/Johnson from giving actual offense) that this particular splinter group is a little more unhinged than normal.

On the one hand, there are comic elements involving the cult — a senior citizen of indeterminate age claiming to be a historic figure over 200 years old, a yet-older nude sunbather who builds spaceships in his backyard. There are also heart-tugging elements, the teenager who’s never seen a television or movie before (and becomes obsessed), him and other teens being cast out of their homes/families and left to wander, the little girl with a developmental disability abandoned on the roadside for entire days to sell baked goods. But, at least for Walt, more importantly there suspicious elements surrounding a Texas-based cult that moved to South Dakota and now seems to be expanding in a handful of Western and Mid-Western states — and the missing mother of the movie junkie. And guns, lots of new, expensive guns.

In addition, we get a lot of good time with the citizenry of Absaroka County (not as much time in the diner as usual), learn a little bit more about the youth of Walt and Henry, see things move along for Walt and Vic, and see a major shakeup for the Sheriff’s Department. Throw all this together, and you get a solid, satisfying read.

Absolutely nothing here did anything to remove the worries Walt has for Cady thanks to Virgil’s warning/prophecy/vision from Hell is Empty. Hoping that gets resolved soon, if only so Johnson stops teasing.

Not Johnson’s best, but there’s nothing to complain about here, and plenty to enjoy.

—–

3 Stars