Sunday, September 13, 2009

Reviewing: "The Dark Horse: A Walt Longmire Mystery" by Craig Johnson

Having won the 2009 Spur Award from the Western Writers of America for the preceding novel in the series, “Another Man’s moccasins,” Craig Johnson makes the fifth installment another interesting read. Wade Basard, a wealthy rancher in Campbell County, Wyoming approximately ten days ago as the novel opens. Mid October finds Mary Basard being brought to Sheriff Longmire for holding until her murder trial back in Gillette in Campbell County in three weeks. Holding prisoners for overcrowd jails is a way for Sheriff Longmire to help his budget in Absaroka County and to use the often vacant space.

In this case, it also gives him something to do since his daughter Cady went back to Philadelphia just after Labor Day. Already feeling depressed over that, the with drawn Mary Basard brings out the father in him. Accused of shooting her husband six times in the head as he lay on the bed and then setting the house on fire , she has confessed and refuses to say much or eat. But, Walt Longmire thinks she is covering for the real killer and before long goes undercover in Campbell County to find out what actually happened.

This novel is told through twin storylines. One storyline concerns the present day undercover investigation. The second storyline features events of ten days earlier and up until the current storyline. Both storylines are present in each chapter and separated by time and date stamps to clarify what is happening when. Both storylines are present from the beginning of the book until the flashback storyline is dropped for the last sixty pages.

The result of that creates a somewhat chaotic read as the novel jerks back and forth in time upsetting the flow of the story. Despite that issue which will vary in severity depending on reader preference, the latest novel features another entertaining read. This is somewhat of a crossroads novel for Sheriff Longmire whose daughter Cady is about to possibly embark on a major life change , his interest in deputy Vic remains, and he faces reelection against strong opposition from Da Kyle Straub and his slogan “ a man to make a difference.”

If you haven’t read Craig Johnson’s stuff before, start in the beginning with “The Cold Dish.” Sure, you can start with “The Dark Horse” but the characters in his books evolve over the course of several novels. They come to life , grow and change, which along with good stories, humor, and plenty of action , make this series not only award winning but worth reading.

The Dark Horse: A Walt Longmire Mystery
Craig Johnson
Viking (Penguin Group USA, Inc.)
ISBN# 978-0-670-02087-4
318 Pages

Book provided by the author in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2009

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