Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Book Review: The Dark Horse, A Walt Longmire Mystery by Craig Johnson

Amazon recommended this author because I read the Joe Pickett series by C J Box. Plus, I think it was recommended due to the variety of horse books I've ordered both fiction and non. I took a chance and was pleasantly surprised.

I looked over Craig Johnson's previous titles in the series and decided to start with this one because horses were part of the main story. The Dark Horse is number five in the Walt Longmire series. I've had the book sitting in my "to read" pile for a few months. When I finally decided to pick it up I was glad I took the chance on this author.

Johnson's style is crisp and witty. Dialogue moves the story forward easily. His characters well defined. The action is just enough without being overdone or interfering with the main plot and sensationalizing the story. The story moves along in the present as Longmire is performing his undercover investigation, then, jumps back four days. At first I didn't think I liked that device because I'm a linear type of reader but after a while I liked the way the story evolved using the technique.

The inside flap reads: "Wade Basard, a man with a dubious past, locked his wife Mary's horses in their barn and then burned it down. In return she shot him in the head six times~or so the story goes."   

Walt Longmire, Absaroka County, Wyoming, sheriff, goes undercover to figure out what isn't quite right about the story.

While undercover as a presumed insurance investigator, Walt infiltrates the town locals, some trusting, some not. Most of the folks Walt talks to are not fond of Wade Basard in the first place. If Mary killed Wade, well then he deserved it. And, to lock her horses in the barn and set it on fire....he got what was coming to him in their eyes. But, the pieces don't fit together for Walt. Even though Mary confesses she did it and was found with the gun in her hands, Walt's gut feeling is that things are a little less cut and dried. 

Walt also discovers that Wade took Mary's prize mare, Wahoo Sue, out to the desert, presumed dead...

Johnson does an excellent job with the horse-man interactions but I don't want to spoil the whole story because Wahoo Sue plays a bigger role than you originally believe at first, so I'll just leave it by saying I let the scene slide because over all it added suspense. It also added to Walt Longmire's character.

One of my favorite conversations occurred as the old cowboy Hershel, Benjamin, the boy from town, and Walt, were saddling up their horses for a trail ride outside of town:

The old cowboy Hershel, "You know what they say about a horse bein' only afraid of two things?"

Walt, "What's that?"

Hershel, "Things that move and things that don't"

Walt also has his loyal companion Dog who is always with him. Dog is apparently of unknown breeding somewhere between a German Shepherd and a St. Bernard. I'm looking forward to getting the first four books in this series so I can see how Walt evolves.

I highly recommend this book and I gave it my top rating of four ****.

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