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The Dark Horse: A Longmire Mystery Paperback – May 25, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In Johnson's superb fifth contemporary mystery to feature Wyoming sheriff Walt Longmire (after 2008's Another Man's Moccasins), Walt has his doubts about Mary Barsad's guilt when she confesses to shooting her husband, Wade, after Wade allegedly burned down their barn with all Mary's horses inside. Even though the crime is out of his jurisdiction in a neighboring county, Walt can't shake the feeling that there's more to Mary's story. Posing as an insurance agent, Walt starts poking around the tiny town of Absalom, whose main attraction are the fights at the local bar. He meets an illegal immigrant bartender with a knack for crime solving, the Barsads' loyal cowhand and some ranchers who may have had their own reasons for wanting Wade dead. Walt digs deep into the dilapidated town's history, unearthing secrets that might be better left buried. Series fans will delight in seeing Walt return to his cowboy roots as he mounts a horse and navigates the sparsely populated state. 8-city author tour.(June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Bookmarks Magazine
In The Dark Horse, Craig Johnson continues to develop Sheriff Walt Longmire's personality -- he's got a wicked sense of humor that can land him on the wrong side of things -- and to introduce interesting new elements and characters into each installment. Johnson's regional focus -- particularly his ability to evoke the austere, mysterious landscapes of Wyoming -- and a noirish attitude toward crime recalls writer James Lee Burke and the long-running Dave Robicheaux series. With a new deal from Viking following early independent success, Johnson, too, seems poised for a long career atop the genre. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
If you want to know the REAL characters, relationships, and character history, you have got to read this series!
I became hooked and just finished this, the fifth book, and loved it... I will be buying the sixth book very shortly!
In this fifth book of the series, we see the Sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming, working undercover as an insurance agent in the tiny, ill-tempered town of Absalom. Absalom resident Wade Barstad, well-known womanizer and jerk-about-town, set fire to his barn. The fire roasted alive his wife's horses, which didn't set too well with Mary. Mary Barstad waited till Wade went to bed. She then proceeded to put six bullets in his head and set fire to the house. When the fire department showed up, Mary confessed to killing her husband. But the sheriff in that county smells a rat, and he soon has Walt Longmire sniffing the very same eau de rongeur. Seeing as how most Absalom residents would just as soon shoot strangers as look at 'em, will Walt have enough time to figure out what really happened?
Although Johnson writes of his corner of Wyoming as if it's a character in and of itself, it's really the two-legged ones for whom you want to read this series. Each a rugged individualist, learning everyone's outlooks on life as well as their relationships with the other characters is the meat and potatoes of these books. The mystery is the huge wedge of lemon meringue pie that puts a satisfied PAID to the entire meal.
It's difficult to write a novel about the West and not have the landscape have its say. Just ask Hillerman or Bowen or Box...or Craig Johnson:
"I thought about how we tilled and cultivated the land, planted trees on it, fenced it, built houses on it, and did everything we could to hold off the eternity of distance-- anything to give the landscape some sort of human scale. No matter what we did to try and form the West, however, the West inevitably formed us instead."
Walt Longmire was raised by his mother to respect and help the young, the old and the infirm. He's the type of person who can stare at the wall around a pay phone and think
"People had written and scratched things so deeply that re-paintings had only heightened the sentiment. I wondered if Custer really wore Arrow shirts, if DD still loved NT, if the eleven kids that got left at the parking lot were still beating the Broncos twenty-four to three, or if 758-4331 was still a good time. I thought about the love, heartbreaks, and desperate passions that had been played out through the phone in my hand...."
No matter how he may try to dissemble, when the chips are down you want Walt Longmire guarding your back. The man who can wonder about DD and NT truly gives a damn.
The book is told in two alternating time frames: the present while Walt is undercover, and the two weeks leading to his arrival in Absalom. Although this had me chafing at the bit a few times, it did serve two purposes: reminding us why Walt thought Mary Barstad was important enough to risk his life for, and giving us doses of Walt's co-workers and friends who couldn't follow him into this investigation. This series isn't the Walt Longmire Show; the secondary characters are just as well-drawn and easy to get attached to as he is.
Although I still doubt the wisdom of having a character like Walt go undercover practically on his own home turf, I loved this book. In a nostalgic post a few days ago, I mentioned being horse crazy, which was a bit prophetic. The Dark Horse was drawing to a close. Walt had to save someone's life and the only transportation available to take him down off a high mesa and toward help was a magnificent black horse. I swear, if someone had interrupted me at that moment, I wouldn't have bothered with a gun or a baseball bat or a scream of rage. I would've let fly with one of my Spontaneous Combustion Looks-- guaranteed to flash fry the recipient down to his Tony Lamas in one-tenth of a second.
Craig Johnson turned back my clock. While my adult brain was being very well taken care of, I was also a child, sitting here with my eyes glued to the page, reading about a hero and a horse and a race against time. Not many writers are skilled enough to satisfy on so many levels. Johnson is one of the few.
It's hard to read the books after watching the show. But I'm frequently amazed how skillfully Mr. Johnson has pulled off the quiet, deep character of Walt Longmire. It's all there, and then some.
The books are an easy read, but not too easy. The author assumes his readers have a brain, and lets us connect some of the dots. There's no preaching, no blunt force.
Make sure you have nothing on your schedule. You won't be putting these books down.
As for the plot itself... I figured out parts of the crime early because I have a health issue that helped me identify clues but I don't think this will affect the majority of readers.
Longmire the show is true to Longmire the book-series in the same way that Midsomer Murders is true to Caroline Graham's books: the show captures the essence of the characters but takes liberties with plots, which keeps both formats fresh for viewers. I've also mentioned that each new book in the series makes these deviations more apparent but this book was like a paused stop-watch; the threads that deviate fall by the wayside for this book - not ended, but not important...yet.
This book is mostly Walt, with his usual supporting cast of characters elsewhere, off doing other stuff and, to be frank, I missed them. But, since the plot-deviations between book and show involve on-going romantic threads, this book is a great example of why I prefer romances written by men and geared for male audiences. The romance isn't given preference over everything else going on in the story-world. Other stuff -crime- happens. The romance builds slow and steady over a long course of time and, in the end, helps both the characters and the relationships feel more real than the ones displayed in poorly-disguised bodice-rippers touted as westerns. The separation of Walt from the other characters felt like romance building for future books and that is something that will endear me to the series as a whole, when it's completed.