Determined to be a good sport, this non-television-watching gal tucked up on the couch determined to feign interest in whatever insipid popular, brainless show they were addicted to. See what a good sport I am? So you can imagine my surprise when they tuned into a series (which of course I had never heard of) that was, well, actually good. You may have heard of it. A little modern-day, western mystery series over on A&E going by the name of Longmire. And best of all? My beady little eyes honed in on the opening credits which read: "Based on the books by Craig Johnson". Well, well, well. What have we here?
Now the episodes I watched there were pretty darned good. But you can be damned sure I got up the next morning and downloaded the first of Craig Johnson's books, The Cold Dish. And read it in one afternoon. It was that good. Yes, far, far better than the television version.
If you're not familiar with the premise, let me fill you in. Walt Longmire is the sheriff in a sparsely populated county in Wyoming. Okay, all counties in Wyoming are sparsely populated, but this one particularly so. He's been doing this a while, so he's a little jaded. And Wyoming towns are really small town. If you've ever been there, you know what I'm talking about. I myself had the particular pleasure (not sure if that's sarcasm or not) of flying freight throughout Wyoming in my younger years so I understood immediately the tone of the books and perhaps experienced some displaced nostalgia. But I digress.
Walt has a deputy, Vic, from Philadelphia. She's good at what she does and brings a much-needed dose of the big city to the place, though she has a mouth on her like a sailor on shore-leave. Walt's best-friend, Henry Standing Bear, is a Cheyenne who runs the only bar in town. Everyone has a hysterically dry sense of humor although it's clear they aren't aware of that.
"Slugs basically convert shotguns into oversize rifles with enough power to crack automobile engine blocks."
"Why would somebody want to shoot somebody with something like that?"
So while I laughed myself silly throughout, the mysteries themselves are actually quite serious. As I mentioned, Wyoming isn't exactly populous so when a murder occurs it is a momentous occasion. Johnson creates crimes riddled with both legal and moral quagmires that make this much more than a typical whodunit mystery.
Still, there is the laughter.
"You want to take a ride?"
"I'm saddled and, if you're waitin' for me, yer backin' up."
It was like working with Louis L'Amour.
All in all, I'm thoroughly grateful there are ten books in the series. And while I do recommend picking up the books, I cannot in all good conscious, recommend Wyoming. Especially Rock Springs. Ugh. (There, see? I just lost another reader.)
Title: The Cold Dish
Author: Craig Johnson
Publisher: Penguin (Reprint Edition)
Source: Bought it. Lock, stock and proverbial barrel.
Rating: Five Stars