Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Double Dose of Craig Johnson

This was my week with Walt Longmire. First I read Craig Johnson's original short story "Divorce Horse" that is essentially set between HELL IS EMPTY and AS THE CROW FLIES. Then I moved right into AS THE CROW FLIES. So here is a double helping of my favorite literary sheriff.

First line: "It was Memorial Day weekend and I was having dinner with my best friend, Henry Standing Bear, and my daughter Cady at the Busy Bee Café."

Walt Longmire never seems to full convalesce before he finds himself in the midst of more life-threatening situations - or at least physically harmful situations. He does get a bit of a break in "Divorce Horse" after his harrowing experience chasing the escaped convicts through the mountains of Wyoming.

Walt and Henry bet Cady that men talk about relationships less often than women don't talk about them. Got that? Well Cady's keeping score, but she doesn't exactly play fair.

Meanwhile, Walt is summoned to the rodeo grounds to investigate a missing horse, the same horse that helped fuel a notorious Absaroka County divorce, thus Vic named it the divorce horse.

"Divorce Horse" is classic Craig Johnson. It's a nice little taste of the gang from Absaroka to fill some of the space between full-length books. As with all of the Walt Longmire novels, there's an underlying theme of relationships; this story looks at the dynamics of the men and women in those relationships.

The warm humor, crisp dialogue and strong sense of place are there, just squeezed into a smaller package. Fans of the series won't want to miss this little gem. And if you haven't tried this series yet "Divorce Horse" will whet your whistle for all the goodness that is found in Absaroka County.

"Divorce Horse" is an ebook exclusive. It's available for the Nook and the Kindle. It also contains the first chapter of AS THE CROW FLIES, book eight in the Walt Longmire series.

First line: "'I wanna know what Katrina Walks Nice did to get kicked out of a joint like this for sixty-one days.'"

It's closing in on Cady Longmire's wedding to Michael Moretti and Walt has father-of-the-bride business to take care of. He and Henry are on the Reservation trying to work out Cady's desired location for the wedding. However, they're running into a bit of a conflict. There is another event scheduled there at the same time. So Henry and Walt head out to another suggested location, just in time to see a woman fall off a cliff with her infant son. The young woman doesn't  survive the fall but her son does. Two many pieces of evidence point to foul play for the fall to be an accident; the young woman's husband becomes the prime suspect until he too winds up dead.

Try as he might to stay out of it, Walt gets pulled into the investigation when Lolo Long, the newly appointed tribal police chief, needs some serious law enforcement lessons and a similar adjustment to her attitude and people skills. 

My time visiting Absaroka County never seems long enough. Maybe it's because once I pick up one of Craig Johnson's Walt Longmire novels, I can't put it down until the end. And then I'm wishing I would have read it slower.

AS THE CROW FLIES takes place primarily on the Reservation so we have a bit of a change in scenery. Johnson has many strengths as a writer, but few if any surpass his sense of place. He brings the Wyoming - or in this case Montana - landscape and its inhabitants to life and puts them to work as characters, affecting and influencing all the elements of the story. There are no questions that Walt Longmire's surroundings are as alive and vital as he is:

"The surface was a loose scrabble of sedentary shale that looked like shattered terra-cotta in a wild cathedral floor; the footing was unstable, and a few lizards scrambled like ball bearings over the hard surface. I moved toward the edge and kneeled down to look at the disturbed rock shelves at the point where the woman had fallen. The wind picked up a little, nudging me from behind, as I allowed my eyes to drift toward the clouds again, some of the trailing low enough to almost reach out and touch."

The change in scenery also brings with it some new characters, including Lolo Long, her mother Hazel and brother Barrett.

The richness of Johnson's character development can be seen in any of his characters, but Lolo Long is an excellent illustration. She's a tough woman with a hard exterior. She's not a popular chief because of those characteristics, but she is determined. She wants to do well and she wants to do right; however, sometimes she tries a bit too hard. Lolo carries both physical and emotional scars; she's experienced pain before, so she doesn't want to expose her weaknesses and open herself up to more pain, yet still she takes a chance reaching out to ask Walt for help.

And there's no need to worry about humor. Johnson writes serious, thought-provoking themes, but he also knows how to have a good time. Walt finds himself in a bit of a drug-induced state during his time on the Reservation. He battles it out with Henry's infamous pick-up truck, Rezdog, and he has just as many wedding jitters as his daughter Cady.

In short - which I have obviously not been in this review - AS THE CROW FLIES is another winner for the Walt Longmire series. I miss some of our Absoraka regulars who've been on the scarce side the past couple of books, but the new faces are adding more layers of enjoyment to an already scrumptious series I only continue to devour. And now, the wait for book nine.

AS THE CROW FLIES is available next Tuesday, May 15 from Penguin Viking in hardcover (ISBN: 978-0-670-02351-6). As many of you know this is also one of my very favorite series on audio. I'm unable to find any information at this point on the audio release, but once I know the details, I'll be sure to share them.


gspotsylvania May 10, 2012 at 6:51 AM  

Must Read!

gspotsylvania May 10, 2012 at 6:51 AM  

Must Read!

le0pard13 May 10, 2012 at 11:43 PM  

I'm hoping that Audible will be releasing the audiobook (with our George Guidall narrating once more). Thanks, Jen.

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