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Dry Bones: A Walt Longmire Mystery


Dry Bones: A Walt Longmire Mystery

You can’t run through a Walt Longmire story. You might be tempted to, but it behooves one to read closely. Case in point: I was just a few pages into DRY BONES, Craig Johnson’s 11th Longmire mystery, when I came across a line of wry and, yes, ribald dialogue that caused me to choke coffee all over my eReader. The source of the statement was Victoria Moretti, Longmire’s salty-mouthed deputy and love interest; part of the cause of my involuntary reaction was that the same line (or words to that effect) had leapt, unbidden, from my own mind a second before I read Johnson’s. If great minds think alike, I am humbled to be in such revered company.

Rough humor isn’t the only reason to come to DRY BONES. The book is reminiscent of “It Came Out of the Sky,” a Creedence Clearwater Revival tune about a valuable meteor that has come to land on the property of a hardscrabble but very sharp farmer. In the case of DRY BONES, the object in question comes out of the ground in Absaroka County, Wyoming, with a bit of assistance from the High Plains Dinosaur Museum. The object is the fossilized remains of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and its unearthing occurs almost simultaneously with the discovery of the dead body of Danny Lone Elk, the Cheyenne tribe rancher on whose property the discovery is made.

"Johnson’s interplay among his endlessly interesting characters is first rate as always, and he consistently finds new locations in the Wyoming landscape to serve as backdrops to Longmire’s pursuits."

The investigation of a potential homicide would be bad enough for Sheriff Walt Longmire, coming as it does on the eve of a visit from his daughter, Cady, and new granddaughter, Lola. But Absaroka County suddenly becomes Ground Zero for state, federal and Indian representatives, all of whom claim the very valuable bones as their own. The High Plains Museum had a deal with Lone Elk, but it’s a deal with a dead man. And since the deal was done with written documentation, they’re up a dry creek (so to speak) without a paddle.

Johnson, like his iconic creation, takes his time getting to where he is going and sets up a whole crew of characters, old and new, before assiging Longmire and Moretti to what is looking more and more like a murder investigation. Henry Standing Bear, aka the Cheyenne Nation, eventually shows up, and there’s no denying that things get better, reading-wise, when he does. But it is the arrival of Cady and Lola that really takes things to another level. They are not back in Colorado for even a few hours when a tragic event occurs that undoubtedly will play out over the next several installments of the series. It indirectly forces Longmire to pursue his investigation into Lone Elk’s death without Moretti’s assistance, which quickly becomes fraught with danger from a number of elemental sources.

If your phobias are at all related to heights, enclosed places and/or water, you will have grip indentations in the book binding before you are finished reading. Longmire solves two mysteries: the first dealing with Lone Elk’s death, the other arising near the very end of the tale. It constructs a tableau that is unexpectedly, and however briefly, heartwarming.

As previously mentioned, DRY BONES takes just a bit of time to get going but is always entertaining. Even at its slowest pace, it is engrossing. Johnson’s interplay among his endlessly interesting characters is first rate as always, and he consistently finds new locations in the Wyoming landscape to serve as backdrops to Longmire’s pursuits. Also, the book (at least in one place) will make the ground drop from underneath the reader. Changes are coming in the series, for sure, and if you’ve been tempted to jump into these fine novels as the result of your acquaintance with its television counterpart (which will resume on Netflix in Fall 2015), DRY BONES --- or any of its predecessors --- would be a good place to start.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on May 13, 2015

Dry Bones: A Walt Longmire Mystery
by Craig Johnson

  • Publication Date: April 26, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books
  • ISBN-10: 0143108182
  • ISBN-13: 9780143108184