Friday, October 09, 2015

What we're reading: Longmire

I'm continuing on with reading Craig Johnson's series about Absaroka County (Wyoming) sheriff Walt Longmire, which I discovered and enjoyed long before the A&E network decided to turn it into a TV show. Happily for those of us who enjoyed the television version as well (despite its failure to follow many significant details from the books), after A&E cancelled it in August of 2014, Netflix picked it up less than three months later, and has committed to at least one more season of 10 episodes. Longmire rides again!

In the latest novel, Dry Bones, Johnson mines what would have seemed to me (previous to doing a little research) to be an unlikely story line: Dinosaurs? in Wyoming? But there is actually a Wyoming Dinosaur Museum in the town of Thermopolis, and it even has its own adjacent Allosaurus dig site, where visitors can see bones, teeth, and footprints of sauropods and therapods.

 In the book, the largest, most complete fossil of a Tyrannosaurus rex ever found is discovered in Absaroka County. Then the rancher on whose land the T-rex is found (a member of the Cheyenne tribe) turns up dead, face down in a turtle pond. Not only is there a suspicion of murder, but the case is then vastly complicated by the number of parties vying for ownership of the priceless remains (of the dinosaur!), including Danny Lone Elk’s immediate family, the Cheyenne, the Deputy Attorney General, and the federal government. Walt and his undersheriff, Vic Moretti, recruit Lucian Connally and Henry Standing Bear (and Dog) to help them investigate a sixty-six million-year-old cold case that’s heating up. There are also the usual family complications, since Walt's daughter Cady and his brand-new grandbaby are due for a visit smack in the middle of all this action.

This wasn't my favorite in the series, but it was still great. The characters are so strong that they can carry any story, whether weak or compelling. I didn't personally feel like this was one of Johnson's strongest, but many people on Goodreads disagreed with me; and if you are interested in the chequered history of archaeology in this country, with the endless battles over who owns, who keeps, who displays, who profits from such discoveries, you will like it a lot.

There are also some significant life changes that take place in this story line for some of the characters, one of them so abrupt and shocking that it took me a while to get back to the rest of the book. And there is the trademark poker-faced humor of Henry Standing Bear to leaven the solemnity with a little laughter.

If you haven't tried this series, read the first and see if you're not hooked into pursuing it right up through #11.

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