THE COLD DISH – Craig Johnson

Conderena again offers us a terrific review of what is clearly a terrific series. I have seen Craig Johnson’s books and have been planning to read one in the next few months.

Condorena’s review shows clearly that the series is one that deserves attention.

“There’s nothing like a dead body to make you feel, well, removed. I guess the big city boys, cataloguing forty or fifty homicides a year get used to it but I never have. There is a religion worthy of this rite of passage, of taking that final step of being a vertical creature instead of a horizontal one. Yesterday you were just some nobody, today you’re the honored dead with bread bags rubber banded over your hands. I secure what’s left if my dwindling confidence with the false confidence of the living, the deceitful wit of the eight-foot tall and bulletproof. Yea verily though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will live forever. If I don’t, I sure won’t become an unattended dead in the state of Wyoming with sheep sh*t all over me.”

Sheriff Walt Longmire has been on the job for many years and when he is first called to the scene of the crime he is positive he that he is on the way to the great sheepocide he has been long awaiting. Instead he finds the body of a young man who had been killed with a single shot through the back. Weapons experts determine that the weapon was most likely a very special rifle known as a Sharps rifle.

The history of the young dead man, one Cody Pritchard, who as Longmire puts it, departed for the far country from which no traveler ever born returns, is that he was no angel. Among other things he was involved in a brutal gang rape of a young Cheyenne maiden who was afflicted with fetal alcohol syndrome three years prior to his murder.  He was the least repentant of the offenders. The sentence was suspended because the girl could not testify adequately and it couldn’t be proven she was not consenting.

The history of the rifle was that it was designed by Christian Sharps and adopted by the military in 1874 because it could kill a horse stone dead at 600 yards. It was used at Harpers Ferry, and by the Indians, as well as a buffalo rifle. Sharps shooter :sharpshooter.  It was the Sharps rifles that put the icing on the cake at Little Big Horn. There were few of these rifles around, and you needed to be a marksman to shoot this rifle cleanly. The list of people who owned one was short.

With in days two of the other young men out of the three remaining involved in the Little Bird rape case were found dead, killed by a Sharps. Walt Longmire and his Deputy Victoria Moretti, a Philadelphia transplant with a mouth worse than a sailor are fighting the weather of the high plains of Wyoming as well as fears that more deaths will happen before the killer is caught.

Longmire’s personal fear at some point is that his closest friend Henry Standing Bear, a Cheyenne, a marksman, an owner of a Sharps who is the Uncle of Melissa Little Bird the rape victim. Standing Bear has been by his side during these past tough years after the death of his wife. He has been pushing him to reclaim his own life, to get in shape and get his house in order. Longmire has to trust that Henry is not the shooter. Longmire may seem like an independent person but at a deeper level he has a need for people. His safety nets are through out the community, Ruby, at the police station, Vic, his deputy, Dot at the restaurant and most of all Cady his daughter. But Henry is his Rock of Gibraltar

Melissa’s father also had possession of a Sharps but he is wheel chair bound. Is it so, that revenge is a dish best served cold?  Or not served at all? At the dénouement Walt muses that maybe half-truths are all you get in this life.

Craig Johnson won the 2006 Dilys award for THE COLD DISH .This is the first of six mysteries so far recounting the adventures of Walt Longmire  a veteran sheriff of Absaroka County ,Wyoming. Johnson, himself was once a regular patrolman on a large eastern police force and he brings a realistic portrait of law enforcement to his stories. He also deals with various images of the West and the tensions that exist  between the West of idealized myth and the West as it is experienced by those that actually live there.

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1 Response to THE COLD DISH – Craig Johnson

  1. Pingback: AUTHORS I – M | MURDER by TYPE

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