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review 2017-09-20 03:16
Boy howdy. Longmire looks to the past and shakes up his present.
The Western Star (A Longmire Mystery) - Craig Johnson

In the last novel, An Obvious Fact, Johnson plays with lines and themes from Sherlock Holmes while letting us get to know that very important woman in Henry Standing Bear's life while Walt solves a murder. In this book, Johnson plays with Murder on the Orient Express while letting us get to know that very important woman in Walt's life while Walt solves a murder. It struck me while reading that as large a shadow that Martha Longmire cast over the books (particularly the first few), we really don't know much about her. We don't learn that much about her, really, but we see her interact with Walt and Henry -- and you walk away with a much better sense of her as a person, not her as the giant hole in Walt's life.

 

How do we get this sense? Half of the novel takes place shortly after Walt returns to the States after his time in the Marines, and he's been employed by Lucian as a deputy for a couple of weeks. Lucian is attending the annual meeting of the Wyoming Sheriff's Association, and he brings Walt along. This meeting takes place on The Western Star, a passenger train. Shortly after boarding, Walt meets one Sheriff who is convinced that one (or more) of his fellows is murdering people across the state (sort of a Dexter-vibe to the motive), and he needs someone with fresh eyes and a lack of knowledge of the Sheriffs to help with his investigation. This would be Walt, naturally.

 

Meanwhile, in alternating passages/chapters set in the present, Walt is in Cheyenne for a highly politicized parole hearing (that becomes something a little different) to keep this particular killer behind bars. Johnson's very good about not tipping his hand about the killer's identity until Walt uncovers it. While doing so, he stays with Cady and his granddaughter, and annoys some pretty powerful people in the state.

 

I found the Walt on a Train story entertaining more than intriguing, but the final reveal was well done and made me appreciate it all the more. But while I wasn't that into the mystery, I really enjoyed watching Deputy Walt and Sheriff Lucian do their thing. It was sad watching Walt's idealism surrounding the societal/cultural changes that the 60's promised come into contact with the cold reality that humans take awhile to change. I was really intrigued by the present day story, on the other hand, and wished they could get into more of the details about the case, but it'd have been hard to do while keeping the identity of the killer under wraps.

 

The events that are revealed after the reveal (in both timelines) will leave fans unsure what to do with themselves until Walt Longmire #14 comes out. I have some thoughts about what that book will end up being, but I'll hold on to them for now. But it's going to be something we haven't seen before.

 

But this book? Very entertaining, illuminating and the whole time, it slowly but surely reels you in and sets you up for the biggest emotional moments that Johnson has penned to date. Johnson earned the 5th star for me in the last 13 pages.


2017 Library Love Challenge

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2017/09/19/the-western-star-by-craig-johnson
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review 2017-08-31 03:52
A fun collection of Longmire shorts
Wait for Signs: Twelve Longmire Stories - Craig Johnson

We've got a collection of twelve stories here -- 1 new story and 11 previously published, with a nice introduction by Lou Diamond Phillips. As Johnson describes the collection, "some are mysteries, some have mysterious elements, and others are no mystery at all, just glimpses into Walt's life."

 

That's pretty much all you need to know -- if you're a fan of the series, you'll find plenty to appreciate. If you're new to the world of Walt Longmire, I'd try the novels first.

 

There are a couple of stories that deal with Walt's ongoing grief over his wife, Martha, one of which I found pretty moving. There's some decent action, a good deal of Walt being really clever. All the regulars make an appearance (however brief in some cases): Sancho, Lucian, Lonnie Little Bird, Cady, Vic (less of her than you'd expect), and lots of Henry. There's not a loser in the bunch -- yeah, there's a couple that could be better, but even they were enjoyable. "Messenger" is quite possibly the funniest thing that Johnson has written to date -- and that's saying something. Ridiculous -- yet with a little bit of good action.

 

Perfect for those who need a quick fix of Absaroka County, Wyoming's Sheriff.

 

2017 Library Love Challenge

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2017/08/30/wait-for-signs-by-craig-johnson
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review 2017-07-08 03:22
Walt heads to Philly for this adventure
Kindness Goes Unpunished (Audio) - Craig Johnson,George Guidall

I was going to try to come up with something original for this time through the book, but mostly, I liked what I said <a href="http://wp.me/p3z9AH-1DD" target="_blank">last time</a>, so let's stick to that. I do have a few new things to say at the end, I should note.

 

It's a sure sign that I need to spend more time reading Johnson than watching the show based on this series in that I'm consistently surprised at how funny these books are. Sure Henry Standing Bear's dry wit is there, Vic is brash and inappropriate -- amusing enough -- but the narration, Walt himself? I chuckled a lot.

 

So, Walt and Henry (and Dog!) are off to the City of Brotherly Love to visit Walt's daughter, Cady, meet her boyfriend, and for Henry to do something at a museum (just an excuse to see Cady). Oh, and conveniently enough, to meet Vic's family (three police officers, one former police officer, and one attractive mother). After arriving in town, Walt doesn't even get to see Cady before she's brutally attacked and hospitalized.

 

Naturally, Walt stumbles upon the one person in Philadelphia who's more knowledgeable and interested in Indians than Henry. It's that interest (obsession?) and his connection to Walt that makes Walt the best man to track down the man who put Cady in the hospital (and other assorted nefarious acts). That's a level of coincidence that you just buy -- like Gideon Oliver vacationing somewhere that a set of bones surprisingly shows up; Nero Wolfe needing information from someone who's a sucker for orchids; or that every falsely accused murderers that Andy Carpenter stumbles upon happen to own a cute dog.

 

There's enough twists, turns -- and one seeming unnecessary but entertaining diversion (that turns out to be not so ancillary) -- to satisfy any mystery reader. Even out of water, this fish can swim. There's some very interesting things that go on in the character's personal lives that should make things interesting down the road (and that I can't talk about while remaining spoiler free) -- enough to make this more than a tale of a father's vengeance.

 

The first chapter (only one in Wyoming) is great -- Walt totally failing to connect with an elementary school classroom, a fun and prototypical Absaroka County shootout, and other things that make up a typical day for Sheriff Longmire on the eve of his trip.

 

One thing that I did take note of last time, but didn't write about was the theme of daughters and parents. There's a lot about Vic and her mother, but the focus is on Cady and the place that she has in Walt's head and heart. I'm not sure how you could read/listen to this without your heart melting a bit -- particularly if you have a daughter who's growing up a bit too quickly, like me. Guidall did a solid job with his narration of this book, but his performance in the last chapter just about broke me.

 

Walt in the big city, like Walt in the least populated corner of Wyoming, is just a pleasure to spend time with -- even if things are going horribly for him.

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2017/07/07/kindness-goes-unpunished-audiobook-by-craig-johnson-george-guidall
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review 2017-06-29 04:03
A sequel that proves the original was no fluke
Death Without Company (Walt Longmire) - Craig Johnson,George Guidall
Everything to do with women is foolish, and, therefore, absolutely essential.


This novel picks up a couple of weeks after The Cold Dish, with Walt still trying to get his head on straight -- and it's not going to well. The major impetus for him now is the impending arrival of his daughter, Cady, for a visit over the holidays. There was enough of a gap between the time I read the first two installments in this series that I missed a lot of the ties that connected the two. I appreciated a lot of the little nuances this time through the novel that I'd missed the first time.

 

Otherwise, I pretty much agree with what I said before:

The atmosphere of the book, the relationships between Vic, the Ferg, Henry, Cady and Walt are effortless, they feel like coworkers and friends. So even when the bodies start to pile up, the external pressures mount, and answers are in short supply, there's an ease to things that make the book more entertaining than it could've been. Even as Sheriff, Walt still comes across as deferential and secondary to his former boss Lucian Connally (though he doesn't hesitate to put his foot down when necessary).

 

When Lucian tells Walt in no uncertain terms that a death in the retirement home he lives in is not from natural causes, he has to investigate. Even if he's not entirely convinced. It's not too much of a spoiler to say that Lucian's right -- otherwise, we wouldn't have a novel to read. Which takes Walt on a journey through the murky history of both one of Walt's oldest friends and the area he calls home -- this time with a different minority group as the focus (though the Rez and its inhabitants are always lurking around in the background).

 

There's a new romantic interest in these pages -- as well as a couple of new deputies for Absaroka County (the particular skill set of one of these is a bit too deus ex machina-y for my tastes, but he's so likable, who cares?). Throw in the kind of snow storm you can only get in rural Wyoming (or areas like it) and some brushes with Indian spirituality, and you get a distinctive kind of mystery novel, making the adventures of Walt Longmire and his cohorts the kind of story you can get nowhere else. It won't take me as long to come back to this series next time.

 

Guidall took awhile to grow on me in the first book -- but now he's just what Walt sounds like (I imagine when I read a Longmire book the voice in my head will be some sort of blend between Guidall and Robert Taylor). I thought he did a great job all around.

 

This novel took the foundation that Johnson laid and started building on it so that it could become the series we all love. I'm glad I got a chance to revisit it, and recommend those that haven't tried it yet to come on down to Absaroka County.

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review 2017-06-15 04:38
A strong introduction to this series.
The Cold Dish (Walt Longmire) - Craig Johnson,George Guidall

This is by and large what I had to say about the <a href="http://wp.me/p3z9AH-1pS" target="_blank"> book a couple of years ago</a> -- but I've expanded it a touch.

 

It's hard to believe this is a first novel. I love it when that happens. Johnson is assured in his writing, he knows his characters and their world, there's no mistaking that. The world and the characters are very well-developed, it's hard to believe that Johnson worked in as much backstory as he did for these characters in such a short space. Walt, Vic, Henry Standing Bear, Lucien -- they're all fully fleshed out and ready to go.

 

As always, the mixture of Cheyenne Mysticism (for lack of a better word) and Longmire's realism (and Vic's cynicism) is great -- even at this point, Johnson's ready to present things that could be Cheyenne ghosts, or it could be Longmire's mind playing tricks on him as a result of injury and exposure without taking a clear narrative stance. It's not a fast-paced tale by any means--Johnson saunters through his prose like Longmire would through the world. That doesn't mean it's not gripping, though. It's lush with detail, as scenic and expansive as the Wyoming country it takes place in.

 

It took awhile for Guidall's narration to work for me, I did eventually come around, and I expect I'll enjoy him more fully in the next book.

I figured out whodunit pretty quickly, but it took a while to get the why. The journey to the why was compelling, interesting and well worth the time. Looking forward to the next installment.

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