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The Cold Dish - Craig Johnson

"On the afternoon of June 25th, 1876, as the heat waves rolled from the buffalo grass, giving the impression of a breeze that did not exist, Colonel George Armstrong Custer and five companies of the Seventh Cavalry rode into the valley of the Little Big Horn. Also that afternoon, Davey Force, a pitcher for the Philadelphia Athletics, went six for six against Chicago, who scored four runs in the ninth to pull out a 14 to 13 victory. Custer was not so lucky."

Big Horn Mountains

Sheriff Walt Longmire of Wyoming's Absaroka County is having a hard time getting his life back together after the death of his wife. "When they are gone, we are left with who we are after we were with them, and sometimes we don't recognize that person." In this case it takes a murder to bring Walt back to his job.

Robert Taylor playing Walt Longmire on the A&E TV series

Cody Pritchard, one of four boys convicted of raping an alcohol fetal syndrome Cheyenne girl, is found dead among a herd of sheep. He was shot with a big caliber weapon. As the case unfolds it is determined that a Sharps .45-70 Buffalo rifle was the murder weapon. A rifle capable of "dropping a horse at six hundred yards". Now you would think that would shorten up the list of suspects, but as it turns out due to the historical significance of the weapon and the accuracy the Sharps is capable of; many men, in this gun rich section of the country happen to own one. Walt has his own theories about guns.

"We are a combative breed. I was not hard on us, though; I didn't need to be, history was. Ten major wars and countless skirmishes over the last two hundred years pretty much told the tale. But that was political history, not personal. I was brought up on a ranch but, because of my father, the romance of guns had somehow escaped me. In his eyes, a gun was a tool, not some half-assed deity. Guys who named their guns worried him and me."

Sharps Rifle

When a second boy of the four is also shot with the same weapon Walt realizes he is in a race against time if he hopes to keep more murders from happening. He relies on his friend Henry Standing Bear who owns the local bar The Red Pony to help him negotiate the politics of the reservation and lend him critical advise on Walt's own mental state of mind. Henry owns a three-quarter ton piece of crap pickup he lovingly calls Rezdawg. Walt hates that truck, but..."There was one thing I liked about Henry's truck, even if I never told him: its comfortable smell of old steel, earth, and leather. I had grown up in old trucks like these, and there was a security there, a sense of memory that transcended brand names and badge loyalties. That description brought back fond memories for me as well. I learned to drive in my father's 1976 Chevy pickup and one of the more recent times that I was up to see my folks I went out to that pickup, now parked in the trees, and creaked a door open just to breath in those old, wonderful smells still trapped in the tattered seats and the rusted out floorboards.

Lou Diamond Phillips plays Henry Standing Bear in Longmire

Walt has a deputy named Vic Morretti, an acid tongued transplant from Philadelphia. She is absolutely devoted to Walt and yet uses every opportunity to kick his ass verbally. She's a handful, but Walt hopes with some seasoning she will someday succeed him as Sheriff. They are fond of each other and yet have a hard time showing it. Walt takes a chance on losing a paw.
I put my arm around her shoulders and pulled her in. It was a risky move, but she didn't resist, and I rested my chin on the top of her head. "Thanks for coming up after me."
Her voice was muffled and sounded strained. "You're the only friend I've got."
"I bet you say that to all the sheriffs."

Katee Sackhoff plays Vic on the series Longmire

I came to this book series ass backwards. I started watching the TV show on A&E this summer and was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. The show is faithful to the books, and so reading this book was just like stepping into the TV show. The setting is modern times, but things really haven't changed a lot in Wyoming in the last hundred years. Yes, there are cell phones, even though Walt refuses to use one, but with the ring of mountains around this area service is spotty. The people who reside in Wyoming have to be respectful of nature. One misstep in this part of the world and you can still find yourself a victim of misadventure. Your scattered bones might never be found.

If you like Westerns you will love this series. If you like reading about beautiful vistas or have an interest in Cheyenne reservation culture you might like this book. If you believe the world is a place of mysticism you will find things in this book that will help keep those beliefs alive. Well written, authentic, with a plot that kept me hooked to the very end. I will certainly be reading more of what Craig Johnson wants to dish up.