THE COLD DISH by Craig Johnson
With the new Walt Longmire series starting up for summer television, I wanted to see what the character was about. I’d been hearing about Craig Johnson and Longmire for a few years, and had even picked up books that I hadn’t gotten around to reading. I once saw him at a book signing and should have introduced myself, but didn’t. Now, after reading The Cold Dish, I think we might have had more to talk about than I’d at first assumed.
Walt Longmire, the sheriff of Absaroka County, is a backwoods lawman with an easygoing manner and a no-nonsense way of dealing out justice. He patrols the open wilds of Wyoming in a pickup truck he calls the bullet, is trying to get over losing his wife, and figuring out a reason to get up every morning in a house that’s only half-built.
Truthfully, during the first half of the novel, I felt like I’d read this particular story one time too many. Over the years, I’ve met several detective protagonists like Longmire who have too many of the same problems. Even the Vietnam War background, which has certainly grown long in the tooth and dates the hero perhaps more than the author intends (since Longmire was at the Tet Offensive, he’s got to be in his mid-sixties now), didn’t overly interest me. That, too, has been done.
I liked Henry Standing Bear and Deputy Victoria Moretti well enough, but again, I’d seen too many like them along the way. The characters were rendered well enough, but – strangely – they didn’t seem to be onstage enough during some of the action.
The murders were fairly standard too, and I had the murderer pegged right out of the gate. I was actually kind of disappointed that I had it right so early on, and that the motive wasn’t actually revealed until the final act. A lot of experienced mystery readers will probably feel the same way.
However, I’m glad I stuck with the book. Things really started coming together in the second half, but it’s more the land and the history of the place that brings the edge to the story and the writing. There are some really nice touches that echo the Old West and the supernatural without ever stepping over the line. And there’s enough action to finish out nicely.
I’ve already ordered the second book and should get to it before the debut of the new Longmire series on A&E on June 3rd. Looking forward to the show. The trailers have been awesome.