”A life without friends means death without company. (Adiskidegabeco bizita, auzogabeko heriotza.)”--Basque Proverb.
One thing that Walt Longmire will never be short of are friends. He also will never have to look far to find an enemy either, but when your bestfriend is a Cheyenne warrior named Henry Standing Bear, tested in the killing fields of Vietnam, you are never in more trouble than the two of you can't climb out of. ”It was three against two, but I had the Indian and that always evened things out.”
When a Basque woman named Mari Baroja is found dead at the local assisted living home Walt has no idea how complicated his life is about to become. His friend and mentor Lucian, former sheriff of Absaroka County, and current resident of the same home insists what looks like a natural death is murder. Now Walt has known Lucian for most of his life and he thought he knew everything there was about him.
He was wrong.
It turns out that Lucian has a relationship with Mari dating back more than fifty years and he still bears a visible dent in his head compliments of her four brothers. These revelations raise more questions especially regarding the disappearance of Mari’s abusive husband Charlie Nurburn. Mari, because she outlived her four brothers, inherited a significant amount of land rich in natural resources. It is starting to get complicated and now Walt has found a motive for murder.
The murder weapon of choice is straight out of an Agatha Christie novel. The misidentity aspects of the plot also had me thinking of Dame Christie. As bodies start to pile up I was starting to think a drawing room would be showing up for the final reveal.
Walt is soon looking for a 6’5” methamphetamine addict for answers. Hard to hide even in Wyoming when you are even taller than the local sheriff. People remember seeing you. The problem with a man that big, wired on meth, is he can get you killed. Walt has a near death experience trapped under the ice of a river trying to bring this man in for questioning.
”They say that your life passes before your eyes, but that’s not what happens. What happens is that you think of all the things you didn’t get done, big things, small things, all the things that are left.”
Remember that Indian, well as long as Henry is breathing Walt will always have a more than even chance of surviving anything. Their relationship is closer than brothers and when you see one the other isn’t far behind. If you mess with one you have to calculate the odds of messing with both of them. My advice don’t mess with them.
Wyoming weather will kill you even if you just slip up a little.
Walt has woman problems make that women problems. His wife died a few years ago and her presence is a shadow over every woman he looks at with any degree of interest. He is looking at Maggie, a friend, for a moment with wise eyes.
”When I looked she was looking at me with the sea blue at full tide. She smiled just a little and then turned back to Henry. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair to chase a ghost through someone else’s body, to try and capture a part of someone who was lost by taking someone who was found.”
Walt also offers some great advice for women.
”I looked over at her; if women knew how good they looked in the dash light of oversized pickup trucks, they’d never get out of them.”
It’s true, so true. People talk about bar lighting, but dash board lights have that smoky atmosphere beat hands down. I bet it doesn’t hurt the way men look either.
Now Walt’s problems with Maggie are minor leagues compared to his issues with his deputy out of Pennsylvania Vic Moretti.
”In the dim glow of the stained glass of the billiard’s light and the Rainier beer advertisements, my chief deputy looked like some courtly renaissance woman, the kind that would poison your wine.”
Run you are thinking, run like your boots are on fire and the stream is a mile away. There are reasons why women like Anne Boleyn can tear a king and a kingdom apart. They can change history with...just...one...kiss.
”I started to step around Vic but, when I did, she turned and slipped my left hand into a reverse wristlock that suddenly brought my head down to her level. I could smell the alcohol on her breath. The big, tarnished gold eyes blinked as she reached out and nibbled my lower lip, gently sliding into a long, slow vacuum.
She kissed like she was pulling venom.
Her hand glided down the back of my neck, the nails leaving scorched earth as they went. She pulled her face back, and I wasn’t sure if I could stand. She studied me for the effect, lessening the pressure on my left hand as I rose away from her, willing my injured leg to stop trembling.”
To hell with the Catholic church. Oh...wait...wrong century.
The evocative scenery of Wyoming and the fickleness of the weather and the cast of characters that Craig Johnson moves around with such deftness and assuredness is not like reading a mystery. It is like drinking a cold beer with your skin stained with work sweat. It is like driving an old pickup that smells of grease and rust. It is like catching lightning in a bottle.
A cup of coffee and a Longmire will work fine until you need something stronger to drink.
There is humor in the books that for some reason isn’t translating as well to the TV series. It is deadpan and will catch you so unawares that you will laugh out loud. You will become so enmeshed in these characters that when someone does something nice for Walt you will feel like they just did it for you. When they feel pain you will feel a twinge in the same place. Highly recommended for those who like books about the American West or for those who just like great writing.
For those who may have missed it here is the link to my review of The Cold Dish