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Hell Is Empty: A Walt Longmire Mystery (Walt Longmire Mysteries) Hardcover – June 2, 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 548 customer reviews

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Hardcover, June 2, 2011
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Editorial Reviews


“With Hell is Empty, Craig Johnson delivers an action-packed Western thriller, rife with evocative setting and literary allusion. This seventh novel featuring wise-cracking Sheriff Walt Longmire creeps stealthily out of the corral with an increasingly tense setup.” — The Boston Globe

“Johnson managed a rare feat: a mystery that is a literary novel. The story starts with a hilarious image: Longmire and his deputy sheriff, Santiago "Sancho" Saizarbitoria, hand-feeding a cheeseburger to a manacled prisoner. It gets infinitely more complex from there: an escaped prisoner with dead bodies in his wake; some unlikely unforeseen accomplices and hostages; and Longmire, never one to stand back and wait for help, tracking the criminals through the Bighorn Mountains.” — The Pittsburgh Tribune Review

“Johnson crafts a chilling allegorical tale of resolve and endurance…[and] uses his intimate knowledge of the landscape and wildlife of Wyoming to full advantage, making them characters in the action. Despite the dire situation, Johnson continues to employ gentle, wry humor and an authentic, no-nonsense Western voice in his dialogue, especially in Walt’s thoughts. And the immediacy of Walt’s peril pulls readers into the complex plot. Good stories that take place in the West are in short supply these days, and Johnson’s latest is the real deal with literary clout.” — Denver Post

“Truly great. Reading Craig Johnson is a treat…[He] tells great stories, casts wonderful characters and writes in a style that compels the reader forward…He has outdone himself with his newest book, Hell Is Empty…A piece of quality fiction that is built on so many levels that you could read it two or three times and not catch all that Johnson is trying to say…This book deserves the attention of more than just mystery readers. It is a top-notch novel. It is worth both your money and your time.” — Wyoming Tribune Eagle

“The story starts with a pitch-perfect piece of Johnson’s trademark scene-setting and then roars off into the wilderness, hardly leaving readers time to catch their breaths…In some ways, this reads like a book-length version of the haunting, harrowing final sequence of Johnson’s outstanding debut, The Cold Dish (2005). And when it comes to bad weather, western lore, and a chilling hint of the supernatural, few writers write it better. — Booklist

“Series fans and readers who enjoy C.J. Box and other authors of Western mysteries will be enthralled by this electrifying and intense work; a triumph.” — Library Journal (starred review)

“Stellar…When [Raynaud] Shade, who’s headed for death row in Utah, escapes and takes off into the wilderness with a blizzard threatening, Walt sets off alone on the killer’s trail…Soon Walt is past the point of no return as the snow and ice accumulate on a journey that evokes Dante’s Inferno.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“For Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire, the pursuit of a vicious murderer through a killer ice storm in the Bighorn Moutnains adds up to a cold day in hell…Deft as always.” — Kirkus Reviews

“A muscular story of guns and grit, man against man and man against nature…the characters’ ascent is indeed hellish, pulling them deeper into a hypothermic fever dream where the line between the living and the dead blurs.” — ShelfAwareness.com

“Craig Johnson continues to crank out top-notch mystery novels featuring the adventures—and misadventures—of Walt Longmire, a modern-day Wymoning sheriff…Little wonder that he’s a winner of the Spur Award given by the Western Writers of America.” — The Charleston Gazette Mail

About the Author

Craig Johnson lives in Ucross, Wyoming, population 25.

Product Details

  • Series: Walt Longmire Mysteries
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; First Edition edition (June 2, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670022772
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670022779
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (548 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #348,582 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Craig Johnson is the New York Times bestselling author of twelve Walt Longmire mystery novels, which are the basis for Longmire, the hit Netflix original drama. The Cold Dish won Le Prix du Polar Nouvel Observateur/Bibliobs. Death Without Company, the Wyoming Historical Association's Book of the Year, won France's Le Prix 813, and Another Man's Moccasins was the Western Writers of America's Spur Award Winner and the Mountains & Plains Book of the Year. The Dark Horse, the fifth in the series, was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year and Junkyard Dogs won The Watson Award for a mystery novel with the best sidekick. Hell Is Empty, selected by Library Journal as the Best Mystery of the Year, was a New York Times best seller, as was As the Crow Flies, which won the Rocky for the best crime novel typifying the western United States. A Serpent's Tooth opened as a New York Times bestseller as did Any Other Name and Wait for Signs, Johnson's collection of short stories. Spirit of Steamboat was selected by the State Library as the inaugural One Book Wyoming and included visits to sixty-three libraries. Johnson lives in Ucross, Wyoming, population twenty-five.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
What begins as a harrowing chase to recapture convicts at large becomes an exercise in survival, the voices of Indian spirits swirling within the snow flurries as Sheriff Walt Longmire climbs ever higher up Wyoming's Big Horn Mountains where child-killer and sociopath Raynaud Shade, a Crow-adopted Canadian Indian, has engineered an escape into the wilderness with four fellow convicts, an entourage of FBI agents and private security guards routed, the gathering teams of law enforcement down mountain impeded by a nightmarish blizzard. Longmire and his prey isolated in the farthest reaches of the wilderness, Walt pursues the violent band armed only with a few weapons, supplies and a tattered copy of Dante's Inferno, unwilling to wait for the arrival of reinforcements. While the situation is particularly hazardous and the sheriff's adversaries, especially Shade, formidable and deadly, it is not uncharacteristic for Longmire to opt for courage over caution.

Longmire's usual accomplices, undersheriff Victoria Moretti, Basque deputy Saizarbitoria (Sancho) and long-time friend Henry Standing Bear are relegated to the sidelines (by weather conditions and by Johnson's plot), available only through sat phone conversations, as the solitary lawman lumbers onward. The physical exertions of the chase push him beyond reasonable limitations- to the point of imminent death- as the two adversaries meet on an icy mountain peak for a final reckoning. Drawing upon his considerable physical reserves, an appreciation for Indian spirits and the tenacity (stubbornness) to survive the most extreme circumstances, Longmire's journey veers into the realm of the existential, a man reduced to the simplicity of survival in a place where "all horrors are horrors of the mind".
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Format: Hardcover
A Review of the Entire Series:

I became interested in knowing more about the Walt Longmire Mysteries after learning that it was going to be made into a TNT series starring Katee Sackhoff, who was in one of my all-time favorite series, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. So I picked up THE COLD DISH and then DEATH WITHOUT COMPANY and then KINDNESS GOES UNPUNISHED and so on through ANOTHER MAN'S MOCASSINS, A DARK HORSE, JUNKYARD DOGS, and on to Craig Johnson's latest offering to the series, HELL IS EMPTY.

I can't express how impressed I am with this series of novels. There are a couple of things to point out.

First, none of these books are written by a formula. About the only thing each novel has in common with the others is that Walt Longmire, the sheriff of Absaroka County, gets battered and beaten in each one. The one ongoing joke, for lack of a better word, in each book is how much physical punishment Walt undergoes. But the novels themselves differ starkly from one to another. Most series reenact the same novel again and again, with only minor alterations from one book to the next. But Craig Johnson clearly refuses to take the easy path, but insists on working hard to create something new each time.

Second, these books are driven by character and are not whodunits. There are mysteries to be solved, but these are not the heart of each book. Most of the novels focus on a series of character portraits of an ensemble cast, but his most recent novel, HELL IS EMPTY focuses on just a couple of characters. But for the most part the books focus on the ensemble.
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Format: Hardcover
I've been a fan of Johnson's earlier books in this series, but this one fell flat for me. It's high on Native American mysticism and low on plot. It is essentially not a mystery, but a lengthy chase scene, in which our hero encounters one force of nature after another--wild animals, snowstorm, fire, etc. After a short while, this gets old. Stylistically, the writing is good, but more substance would is needed to make a good, satisfying read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the very best novels I've read this year.

HELL IS EMPTY is a tour-de-force, a cross-genre literary parable, something to shout about, and I'm shouting as loudly as I can. This is seventh in Craig Johnson's series of mystery/westerns, and while the others are very good cross-genre yarns, this one is something else again.

As in Walter Van Tilburg's The Track Of The Cat (Western Literature Series), the trinity is often stylized with a spiritual man, an animal man, and a middle man, torn between the extremes of his spiritual/animal nature. All three are one, the human condition.

Some literary works place a duality on top of the trinity, splitting them, Zeus-like, into two trinities, one light and one dark. The three in the light are the better angels of our nature, while the three in the shadow self are the furies.

The furies appeared in Virgil's work, as well as in Dante's INFERNO, and they were a trinity composed of Tisiphone, Alecto, and Megaera (blood vengeance, righteous anger, and jealousy). The furies represent the shadow self, the repressed animal nature of man. Sopholcles used the furies in the Oedipus plays.

Joseph Conrad used the furies in Victory, and Austin Wright used the furies in Tony and Susan, and Cormac McCarthy used the furies in Outer Dark.
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