Monday, March 05, 2012

The mysteries of Craig Johnson

Mysteries come with such a variety of backdrops that it is possible to indulge almost any preference for setting, but some authors do the geography thing better than others. One whose setting shares equal weight with plot and character in his novels is Craig Johnson, whose Sheriff Walt Longmire pursues justice in the Bighorn state, the Cowboy state, the wide-open landscape of Absaroka County, Wyoming. Johnson has definitely taken the writers' workshop directive to "write what you know" to heart, since he himself lives in a Wyoming town of 25 souls called Ucross.

I like Johnson's mysteries for their complexity (you seldom guess the bad guy before you're supposed to--a big plus), and I like his cast of characters for the same reason. Sheriff Longmire is a long-time resident, but his deputies are an ever-changing panoply of imports from downstate or the big city (various big cities), and both the townspeople and the residents of the adjacent reservation have important parts to play. I particularly enjoy his long-time Indian (don't call me Native American) friend, Henry Standing Bear, and his feisty Philly Italian deputy, Vic Moretti. I also like that he mixes it up with both characters and settings from book to book, keeping things from getting stagnant, and is always focused on some issue of social justice and how that would play out in the context of the situation.

If I have one complaint, it's that after the relationship between Walt and Vic took an unexpected turn in Kindness Goes Unpunished, Johnson has made us wait...and wait...and wait, doling out tidbits and not letting them engage again in any significant way! C'mon!

The books (in order) are:

The Cold Dish

Death Without Company
Kindness Goes Unpunished
Another Man's Moccasins
The Dark Horse
Junkyard Dogs
Hell is Empty

Can't wait for the next one--As the Crow Flies, due out in May!

If you want to find out more about Craig Johnson and his alter ego, Walt Longmire, go to his website: http://www.craigallenjohnson.com/



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