Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson

First Sentence: “Bob Barnes says they got a dead body out on BLM land. He’s on line one.”

The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson

Viking, 2005
Crime Fiction (MYS); 354 pgs

I love a good mystery. I remember the first time I read a Sue Grafton novel; I knew there was no going back. Kinsey Milhone had an edge about her and there was a grittiness and realism to the novels that instantly pulled me in. They were funny in on offbeat sort of way, just the kind of humor I like. Michael Connelly’s novels also come to mind. I had the same experience reading Craig Johnson’s The Cold Dish. That isn’t to say the series are alike—if you don’t like one, don’t count out the others until you have given one or the other a try.

Walt Longmire is the sheriff of Absaroka County in Wyoming, a relatively quiet and mostly rural community with only an occasional disturbance. Not many people mourn when the body of Cody Pritchard is discovered. He, along with three of his friends, had been convicted of brutally assaulting a young Native American girl, Melissa Little Bird years before. The boys were let off with suspended sentences at the time, something that did not sit well with quite a few people. Could Cody’s death have been a hunting accident or was it murder, perhaps an act of revenge or something else altogether?

Walt is joined by a cast of supporting characters that stand out on their own. Among them is Walt’s best friend, Henry Standing Bear, who is determined to get Walt back in shape and moving on with his life, realizing his friend has fallen into a rut. Walt’s foul-mouthed but extremely competent deputy, Victoria Moratti is a good match for the sheriff. The former sheriff, Lucian, despite his penchant for throwing political correctness out the window, was among my favorites as was the mother-like Ruby, the dispatcher/secretary at the sheriff’s office. She said what was on her mind and let Walt have it when he deserved it most. As for Sheriff Walt Longmire himself, he has seen a lot in his lifetime, having served in the military during the Vietnam War and more recently losing his wife to cancer. There’s a strength about him as well as a generosity of spirit. He seems like the kind of man I would want to have as sheriff in my own town as well as a friend.

Craig Johnson paints a breathtaking picture of Wyoming with the harsh wintry weather, the beautiful mountains and lakes as well as the ranch and reservation lands that are stretched out over the county where the novel is set. He shows the diversity of the land as well as of the people. He also touches upon the past and current tensions between the Native Americans and the white folk, weaving it throughout the book.

It is a rare treat when I can read straight through a mystery and not figure out the end before the protagonist does. Craig Johnson succeeds in doing just that though. The Cold Dish had me both chuckling now and then and, near the end, shedding a tear or two. I am looking forward to spending more time with Sheriff Longmire in the near future.

Rating: * (Very Good +)

Be sure and stop by Craig Johnson's website for more information about his books.


  1. This sounds like another great book! I am adding it to my TBR list! I am pretty sure that I if I live to be 100, I still would not be able to read everything that I want to, lol!! Hopefully heaven has an excellent library, lol!

  2. You know, if I ever seriously want to stop buying books, I'm going to need to stop visiting your blog. This one and the previous book you reviewed went right to my must read list.

    Thank you for that.


  3. Have you read Marcia Muller? Her Sharon McCone character is the precursor to Kinsey. Her books are great. I love a good PI story!

  4. I've never heard of this book! Sounds like a good one. I think I would enjoy the setting. I like an author who can take me into the setting.

    Completely unrelated ... where in the world can I get star graphics? I would like to use some kind of graphic for a rating system, but I guess I've been doing a lame-o search since I'm not finding anything near the great little stars you are using here.

  5. Ooh we just mentioned this book at mystery book group night yesterday. It was voted for an upcoming read. I don't think it's my "usual" book but it sounds great. I won't be around for the mystery book group anymore but I'll still add this to the ever-growing list :)

  6. I've got to find my copy of this book because I think that I will love it and I also think that it would be a good one for the mystery book group. I'm so glad that you enjoyed it and wrote about your experience. I think I told you before that I have a friend who lives in Wyoming who loves this series. She says it is very realistic. Thanks Wendy!

  7. Thanks for bringing this one to the surface. I am looking for mysteries by male authors for the second half of this year at my local library discussion group.

  8. April - I know exactly what you mean! I'm in the same boat. Haha

    CJ - I'm quite the enabler, aren't I? ;-)

    Jennyellen - I haven't read anything by Marcia Muller yet, but I will now that you've recommended her. Thanks!

    Terri - Craig Johnson definitely pulled right in. I hope you enjoy the book if you give it a try!

    I just recently discovered (thanks to a fellow blogger) these cool stars. Send me your e-mail address and I'll share my secret. :-)

    Iliana - Oh! I'm sorry you'll miss the discussion of this book with your group. I do hope you get the chance to read it anyway.

    Kay - I think you will enjoy it too, and it would make a good discussion book. The book definitely had a realistic feel to it, so I'm glad your friend confirmed that my impression was on the mark.

    Jill - This would be a good choice for your discussion group, I think.

  9. Another great review, Wendy!
    Looks like another book to be added to my wishlist... You seem to be reading a few great books lately! ;)

  10. Thanks, Melody! I haven't been reading much, but I am enjoying what I have been able to read. :-)

    Melody, I was able to get your reviews linked to mine tonight. Thanks!

  11. Great review and I noticed you gave it very high marks. I never heard of this author so I must go check it out and possibly add yet another one to the wishlist!

  12. Jaimie - Thank you! It's still a relatively new series so anyone who is just starting it won't be behind too long if they decide to continue with it.

  13. This sounds great.
    I'm adding it to my list.
    I love a good mystery too.

  14. I just read a short story recently that this kind of reminds me of by Dana Stabenow but it's set in Alaska.

  15. I'm putting this into my wishlist, Wendy. Thanks for the fantabulous review!

  16. It feels like forever since I've been here. I had quite a bit of posts to catch up on! (Thankfully I kept them stored on Google Reader, so I wouldn't forget.)

    I just read something about this book about a week ago. I think it was positive as well. :) Thanks for sharing!

  17. Shonna - I do hope you'll give it a try!

    Jen - I haven't read anything yet by Dana Stabenow, but I've heard good things about her books.

    Alice - I hope you enjoy it as much as I did when you get to to it!

    Joy - I use Google Reader much the same way. It sure comes in handy!

  18. I read one Michael Connelly (you mentioned him in there somewhere) book - Chasing the Dime and really couldn't recommend him to anyone after that. Ridiculous plot and horribly cliched ending. But, he's a regular seller in the shop so maybe it's just me.

  19. Julie - I haven't read the Michael Connelly book you mention, but what I have read by him I've really liked. He's one of my favorite mystery writers, not to mention a very nice man. Not every book will appeal to everyone though. Thank goodness there is a wide variety out there to keep us all happy.


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