First line: "Joseph Conrad said that if you want to know the age of the earth, look upon the sea in a storm; if you want to know the age of the Powder River country, just be on the wrong side of a coal train."
One of the great joys of my reading life is my yearly trek back to Absaroka County. This year Craig Johnson toted Walt outside the county, but the trip is equally wonderful.
Walt and Lucian head to neighboring Campbell County to investigate the suicide of Lucian's friend Detective Gerald Holman on behalf of his wife, Phyllis. Walt's on a timeline; he has to catch a plane to Philadelphia in order to arrive in time for the birth of his grandchild.
The suicide is open-and-shut, but the cause of Holman's suicide has the sheriff asking questions and digging for answers. Holman investigated "cold cases" for Campbell County and he was actively pursuing three missing persons cases--three women who vanished without a trace. Walt begins to think the cases are connected, all tying back to why Holman chose to take his own life.
Henry and Vic are also along for the ride on this exploit, so you know there's never a dull moment. From a crooked blackjack dealer to a herd of buffalo bulls to a long-dead first lady, Any Other Name is packed with great new characters who keep Walt on his toes.
At book eleven you would think that I would run out of ways to continue saying this series is wonderful. But with each new installment in Walt Longmire's life, there's new dimension and perspective, new characters to love and new sources of inspiration. Walt and crew grow and change through each bump, bruise and bullet wound. But like any human beings, they also maintain their core selves.
Johnson never seems to be at a loss for witty repartee in his dialogue or action scenes that astutely incorporate the rich settings--all the way down to the local K-Mart.
Those consistencies are comforting, much the same way Dorothy's "usual" at the Busy Bee is comforting to Walt. But Johnson doesn't let his readers grow lazy either. The novel is peppered with odd tidbits and facts that blend seamlessly into the plot and enhance the story. His layers of complexity and examination of social issues offer a challenge beyond the mystery.
Like the 10 previous books before this one, Any Other Name can easily be read and appreciated for the self-contained story that it is. And it will likely snare new readers as easily as The Cold Dish. But to grasp the complete allure of this series start at the beginning and watch the whole Absaroka Gang grow up together.
A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but a book by Any Other Name just ain't the same.
Any Other Name is available in hardcover from Viking (ISBN: 9780670026463) and as an unabridged audio (ISBN: 9781490623979), narrated by George Guidall, from Recorded Books.