The Cold Dish: A Walt Longmire Mystery
by Craig Johnson
Penguin Books, ISBN 978-0143036425
March 28, 2006, 400 pages
I will admit that I never heard of this series of books until I saw the new A&E TV series this season, "Longmire". Normally, cowboys are not my thing. Not a lighthouse in sight, although there was a bit of discussion of fly fishing. But the TV show is pretty good, the characters interesting, so I decided to check out the books, hoping that as usually, the book is always the best format. And I will tell you, I was not disappointed. If you have watched the TV show and liked it, I think you will love the book.
In the first book in the series, The Cold Dish..
"Sheriff Walt Longmire knows he’s got trouble when Cody Pritchard is found dead. Two years earlier, Cody and three accomplices had been given suspended sentences for raping a Northern Cheyenne girl. Is someone seeking vengeance? Longmire faces the most volatile and challenging case in his twenty-four years as sheriff and means to see that revenge, a dish that is best served cold, is never served at all."We are in Absaroka County, Wyoming, not usually a hot bed of crime, which is good because Sheriff Longmire is not the most motivated of lawmen since the death of his wife from cancer. So when a young man is found dead, shot in what appears to be a hunting accident, it could have just all stopped there. But things did not feel right to Longmire, all a little too coincidental, especially who the victim is, a man despised by many in the community. And could the three other men charged with him be next? Is this about revenge, or s something else going on here?
Is it wrong to say that a book where people get killed and guns are fired and we relive some very sad things that have happened, to say that the book is great fun? Well, The Cold Dish is!
While I came to like the setting as described by the author, even without a lighthouse or a boat, not even a canoe, that was not what sold me on the book. And the mystery is good, with lots of red herrings and a logical if rather complicated plot, but that was not the best part of this book. And the fabulous ending, which I totally did not see coming, was great, but that was not it either.
No, it was the characters.
We start with Walt. He is a big bear of a man, living in an unfinished cabin, drinking a bit too much, lonely and rather sad. But he is also very smart and very clever and quite funny..and darn good at his job. You have to love a man who can quote Hamlet, thinks about what book to take with him to a stakeout, yet can carry a 200+ pound man to safety.
As his second in command we have Deputy Victoria Moretti, an ex-Philly cop, overqualified for her job, moving to Wyoming to follow her husband and his job..or it seems her soon to be ex-husband, and with a mouth like a trucker. Walt is trying to groom her as his successor, but she may have to go to a charm school before the voter get a chance to pull the lever if she hopes to win. Then we have Walt's long time friend Henry Standing Bear, owner of the local bar, a member of the local Cheyenne tribe and a man you want by your side in a fight..even if he may be a suspect in the murder. See, that young girl who was gang raped by the dead man and his friends is his niece. Add in a few more like Ruby, the take no prisoners dispatcher, a wise diner owner, a one legged ex-sheriff called into duty from the retirement home..well, all together they are a great 'cast'.
This is the first book in the series, a series that now has 8 books and I will admit, I have the second on the way. But don't let all those books scare you off. Pick up one, check it out and I think you will be hooked.