The fight is real . . . at least for Walt Longmire. As sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming, Walt never has a dull day as he works to solve crimes, contend with family, friends, coworkers, and confront the personal demons that have haunted him since the death of his wife.
Craig Johnson’s sheriff is the focus of a series of a books, as well as a popular television series. I have had numerous people recommend the books and the TV show to me, so comparing the first entries in both seemed perfect for our next “From Page to Screen” feature.
Overall Thoughts on the Book
The first book in the series, The Cold Dish, opens a few years after the death of Walt’s wife. He is still dealing with the emotional fallout of his grief, but it is getting better and he is looking to get his life back on track.
But he might have to put those self-improvement goals on hold as a dead body is discovered in his rural Wyoming county.
Complicating matters is that nobody liked the victim, the perpetrator a couple of years earlier of a vicious crime against a girl from the local Cheyenne Reservation. He and his accomplices had gotten away with a suspended sentence, and most residents on both sides of the reservation resented the lack of punishment.
And making matters even weirder is the murder weapon, an antique Sharps rifle. Nothing about the crime makes any sense, and searching for the killer puts Walt at odds with his best friend, Henry Standing Bear, a relative of the victim’s victim.
I really enjoyed this book. Its best feature is Walt, who is both protagonist and narrator. He is an instantly likable character who has a great sense of humor, so I enjoyed how funny the book was. The supporting cast of characters is also wonderful. Johnson nails the atmosphere of small town life and dynamics, so Walt’s friendship with Henry and his interactions with his small staff and the residents of his county all ring true.
Just based on this book, I think the series is definitely more than just a police procedural. Though the mystery is a big part of the narrative, you also spend a lot of time with him navigating his social life and workplace drama. I normally do not enjoy mysteries that extensively involve characters’ personal lives, but this book was one of the few exceptions, partially because of how engaging Longmire himself is.
The mystery itself was intriguing. It was leisurely-paced but never boring as it intertwined that narrative with Walt’s personal adventures. However, I will admit that I didn’t like the ending. I thought, as was my problem with The Girl on the Train, the killer just didn’t make sense. I read a lot of mysteries where that is the case, but I think it stood out to me more with this book simply because I had been enjoying the story so much otherwise. I really liked how it managed to avoid a lot of common tropes associated with mysteries, but the ending seemed to fall back into more routine territory. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book and the characters.
*This series is also available on ebook on Libby and many of the titles are also available there as audiobooks.
Continue on to the next page for my thoughts on the show!